Cal/OSHA recently cited a pair of Northern California construction businesses more than $300,000 for exposing workers to cave-in hazards at a residential construction site in Piedmont. The companies violated Cal/OSHA’s order to stop work until the imminent hazard was abated.
“Excavation collapses and cave-ins cause serious workplace injuries and fatalities. These citations remind employers to abide by Cal/OSHA stop work orders that are issued to protect workers from unsafe conditions,” said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).
Cal/OSHA cited San Mateo-based general contractor EMI Design & Construction Inc. for 10 workplace safety violations, including two willful and three serious in nature with total proposed penalties of $164,465.
Salt Light Investments Inc., a construction project management company in Berkeley, was cited for three workplace safety violations including two willful in nature, with proposed penalties of $140,375. The violations were discovered during an April 20 investigation at the residential construction site.
Cal/OSHA investigators found 11-foot un-shored walls and issued a stop-work order that same day to address the unsafe excavation. Three weeks later, Cal/OSHA learned that the employers ordered workers back to the site, despite failing to correct the imminent hazards.
Both EMI Design & Construction Inc. and Salt Light Investments Inc. were issued willful violations for failing to shore up an excavation up to 11 feet and for a lack of a design for proper shoring as required.
EMI Design & Construction Inc. was also cited three serious violations for an unguarded floor opening, an unguarded wall opening and unguarded exposed rebar ends.
Similar Hazard Led to Fatality
A similar hazard caused a fatal accident at a Milpitas construction site in January 2012.
In that case, a construction employer ordered a worker back to an excavation site with un-shored 12-foot walls three days after a stop-work order had been issued because of the hazard. The walls caved in, killing the worker.
Cal/OSHA launched a criminal investigation, leading to two years’ jail time for both the construction company owner and the project manager.
A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition.
A willful violation is cited when the employer is aware of the law and violates it, or when the employer is aware of the hazardous condition and does not take reasonable steps to address it.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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