The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Birmingham, Alabama contractor, Stephens Plumbing, Inc., for one willful and four serious safety violations related to excavation and trenching safety. Basically, OSHA cited the company for purposely ignoring safety standards with regard to trenching. In all, the company faces fines of $43,800.
According to the OSHA news release, during a routine inspection, an OSHA inspector witnessed workers in a trench that was at least 10 feet deep working without the cave-in protection necessary under OSHA regulations. That is the violation brought the willful citation. However, there was more; the company also was issued a citation for a serious citation for not having trained workers to recognize, prevent and avoid cave-in hazards.
The other three serious violations they cited the company for included; failing to provide a safe means to enter and exit the excavation; failure to ensure that all soil removed from the trench was not placed directly on the edge of the opening, and for allowing workers to work in an excavation with water accumulated in the bottom.
In their report, OSHA noted that “Stephens Plumbing knew the excavation was unsafe, but they put workers in the trench anyway because management said ‘the job needed to get done.’ Luckily, a compliance officer was there to stop the work before a collapse occurred. It only takes seconds for a trench to collapse and bury an employee under thousands of pounds of earth, often resulting in serious injury or death.”