Worker Dies During Underwater Construction

December 11, 2014

After the death of a 45-year-old untrained diver, OSHA cited Ric-Man International Inc. for 19 safety violations, including one willful. The employee died while completing surface-supplied air diving during underwater construction activities for the City of Weston, Fla., on June 10, 2014. Proposed penalties total $161,000.

"Ric-Man International exposed employees to serious safety hazards when feasible methods existed to protect employees from cave-in and drowning hazards," said Condell Eastmond, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale. "The company must take the necessary precautions to prevent employees from exposure to these hazards."

OSHA issued a citation for a willful violation to Ric-Man International for failure to provide cave-in protection for employees working inside an excavation approximately 12-feet deep. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavation sites 5 feet or deeper be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. OSHA cited the company four times previously for lack of cave-in protection and excavation hazards.

Thirteen serious violations were issued to Ric-Man International for failure to ensure workers who performed diving operations were experienced and trained to perform underwater tasks safely; provide divers with a backup air supply, safety harness and two-way voice communication for emergencies; and to plan and assess risks associated with diving, including underwater conditions, obstructions and visibility. The company also failed to provide dive team members with CPR training. 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.

Founded in 1965 Ric-Man International, of Pompano Beach, employs approximately 60 workers and provides services, including engineering design/build; heavy construction; land development; trenchless technologies; emergency repairs; hurricane cleanup; and marine and bridge construction.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.