Illinois Contractor Cited for Trenching Safety Violations

May 13, 2013

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued five safety violations to Joel Kennedy Constructing Corp. in Waukegan, Ill., for failing to protect workers from cave-ins during trenching operations.

The inspection was initiated under OSHA's national emphasis program for trenching and excavation after an OSHA inspector witnessed apparent cave-in hazards at a construction site in Chicago on Nov. 5, 2012. Proposed penalties total $72,380.  Joel Kennedy Constructing Corp. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

One willful violation involves failing to provide cave-in protection to workers installing a valve vault for a water main in a trench approximately 8 feet deep. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The company has been cited previously for failing to provide cave-in protection in May 2009 and March 2011.

Three serious violations were also cited for failing to provide a means of safe access and egress during trenching and excavation work, keep excavated material away from the edge of the trench and have a guard on a hand grinder. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

One other-than-serious violation was cited for failing to provide a ground fault circuit interrupter on a portable generator used on the site. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

"Joel Kennedy Constructing Corp. has a responsibility to follow safety standards that protect workers from excavation hazards," said Diane Turek, OSHA's area director for the Chicago North Office in Des Plaines. "These types of hazards result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. No job should put workers at risk due to an employer's failure to properly protect and train them."

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at