OSHA cites Georgia trenching company for willful, repeat and serious safety violations; proposes $94,050 in fines

OSHA has cited D&J’s Trenching Services of Mansfield with five safety violations and $94,050 in penalties for exposing workers to unsafe trenching practices at a job site in the Orchard Park subdivision of Covington, Ga.

OSHA found that employees installing a new sewer line were exposed to engulfment hazards while working in an 8-foot-deep trench without any protective system in place. OSHA issued the company one willful citation with a $69,300 proposed penalty for allegedly allowing workers in the unprotected trench despite knowing its depth, knowing the OSHA requirements and previously having been cited for this same violation three times within the past five years. 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.

A repeat violation with a $13,860 fine was cited for exposing workers to fall and engulfment hazards while working in a trench without a safe means of exit. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Three serious violations with penalties totaling $10,890 include exposing workers to electrical hazards by not properly supporting an underground electrical line, fall hazards by allowing employees to access a portable ladder that did not extend at least 3 feet higher than the trench wall, and chemical hazards by not implementing a hazard communication program while employees were using hazardous chemicals such as diesel fuels and oils. 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.

“Excavation and trenching are some of the most hazardous operations in construction. This company’s management is well aware of OSHA’s rules, yet they continue to ignore the dangers,” said William Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta East Area Office. “Anyone who performs these types of operations knows that the walls of a trench, without a protective system, will cave in sooner or later. This employer is choosing to risk the lives of workers every time they enter an unprotected excavation.”

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the 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.

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