Two employees of Industrial Power Systems were exposed to cave-in hazards while installing steam and chill water piping for the construction of a recreation center on the University of Toledo (Ohio) campus, according to OSHA. The company was cited for one willful and one serious safety violation, carrying proposed fines of $75,000.
"Trench cave-ins can bury a worker in minutes and result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year," said Kim Nelson, OSHA's area director in Toledo. "Companies that perform this dangerous work are responsible for knowing the hazards and ensuring necessary safety precautions are in place to protect employees."
OSHA initiated the inspection Aug. 6, 2014, under the National Emphasis Program for Trenching and Excavation after a compliance officer observed the workers in the unprotected trench.
One willful violation was cited for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench 10-feet deep. The investigation found that the two workers had been working in the unprotected area on and off for more than six hours. 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.
The investigation also found that workers were not provided an exit from the trench, such as a ladder, which resulted in the issuance of a serious violation. 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.
Industrial Power Systems 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.