Be careful who you fire and why. It could come back to haunt you.
A whistleblower reported Alabama contractor, DKS Structural Services Inc., d/b/a Don Kennedy and Sons House Moving Co., to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after he was terminated for refusing to re-enter a trench that he considered to be an unsafe and unprotected, especially since it had been subject to a previous cave-in. So OSHA investigated the worksite and what it found is about to cause the company a lot of trouble, and a lot of money, in the form of fines that could cost them $122,400.
OSHA cited the company for two willful violations involving their failure to provide a safe means of entrance and exit from an excavation, as well as their failure to provide cave-in protection for workers operating in a trench that was 15 feet deep. 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. The willful violations alone carry $112,000 in penalties.
But OSHA also cited the company for two serious violations; exposing employees to fall and crushing hazards by allowing them to stand in a backhoe bucket as a means to lower and raise them in the excavation, and failure to make sure workers wore proper head protection. 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. Those two citations carry $10,400 in proposed penalties.
According to OSHA’s acting area director in Birmingham. Lisa Strunk, “(DKS Structural Services Inc.) knowingly put workers at risk of serious injury or death by ordering them back to work in an unprotected trench after experiencing a cave-in,” said “Risking the safety of workers is not an acceptable business decision.”
DKS Structural Services Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Birmingham or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.