In a continuing effort to protect the countless number of workers who man difficult jobs nationwide on a daily basis, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited Accadia Site Contracting Inc. for alleged willful and serious excavation safety violations.
The action comes after an investigation discovered unacceptable conditions at a water main site at Lewiston Road and McKinley Avenue in Niagara Falls. The Depew-based contractor faces a total of $84,000 in proposed fines after an inspection by OSHA’s Buffalo Area Office.
As the investigation details, on March 7, OSHA discovered workers in a 7-foot deep vertical-walled excavation that failed to offer protection to prevent wall cave-ins, and a ladder every 25 feet to facilitate a swift and safe exit from the excavation. Moreover, 8 inches of water accumulated in the excavation site’s bottom, increasing the chances of a collapse.
‘Unprotected Excavation Can Be Deadly’
“An unprotected excavation can turn into a grave in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have an opportunity to react or escape,” Arthur Dube, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo, remarked. “These workers were fortunate—not lucky, because workplace safety must never be dependent on luck—that they were not injured or killed.”
OSHA issued a willful citation, with a fine of $70,000, for the unprotected excavation. Two serious citations, with $14,000 in fines, were issued for the water and ladder hazards.
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 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.
OSHA Calls Upon Employers for Effective Action
OSHA is also calling upon employers across western New York to take effective action to ensure that excavations are guarded against collapse and their employees are protected against death and serious injury.
“The coming of warmer weather and the accompanying thaw of the soil bring with them an increase in excavation work. Unfortunately, it also brings an increase in cave-in hazards and unsafe work practices,” added Dube. “Before any employee enters an excavation to perform work, the employer must ensure that the excavation is properly safeguarded against collapse, the employees are trained to recognize and avoid cave-in hazards and all required equipment is present and properly maintained.”
Information on excavation hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
Accadia Site Contracting Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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