Illinois Contractor Fined for Trenching Hazards

September 5, 2014

B & T Underground Inc., based in North Riverside, Ill., exposed workers to cave-in hazards, according to OSHA, and has been cited for one willful, two serious and four repeat safety violations. OSHA opened the inspection March 10, 2014, after observing employees working in an unprotected trench at a residential home under construction in Chicago. Proposed penalties total $76,340.

"B & T Underground has demonstrated a continuous lack of commitment to worker safety by failing to use the many forms of cave-in protection available to them," said Angeline Loftus, OSHA's area director for Chicago North. "Trench cave-ins can bury a worker in minutes and result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year."

OSHA initiated the inspection under the National Emphasis Program for Trenching and Excavation, which was implemented in the 1980s.

One willful violation was cited for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench that exceeded 6 feet in depth. OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

B & T Underground was previously cited for similar trenching violations in 2011 and 2012, resulting in four repeat citations. These included failure to provide a safe means of access and exit from the trench and employee exposure to possible collapse of undermined portions of the street and sidewalk. Additionally, workers were not required to wear hard hats or reflective vests to alert motorist of their location.

OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was cited for a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

The investigation found that workers were in danger of being hit by moving vehicles while working on an active roadway without sign paddles or flags. The company failed to protect workers from excavated material on the edge of the trench or from falling or rolling back into the trench. Two serious citations were issued for these violations.

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.

B & T Underground has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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