OSHA Cites Pair of Contractors Nearly $40,000 for Cave-In Hazards at N.H. Jobsite

December 1, 2004

Failure to reportedly provide cave-in protection for workers at a Concord jobsite has resulted in two New Hampshire contractors being fined a total of $39,150 by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

On Oct. 26, OSHA inspectors reportedly observed employees of RockHill Contracting Inc., of Deerfield, and Sabbow & Co. (doing business as Phoenix Precast Products), of Concord, working in an unprotected 10-foot deep excavation at 16 So. State St. Drainage catch basins were being installed at that location.

As a result, both contractors were cited for allowing employees to work in an excavation that lacked protection against a collapse of its walls and for not providing a ladder or other safe means for workers to enter and exit the excavation.

“Cave-in protection is necessary since the walls of a trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape,” said Rose Ohar, OSHA’s area director for New Hampshire.

RockHill, which OSHA had cited in Sept. 2003 for an unprotected excavation in Salem, N.H., was fined $35,900 this time and issued a willful citation for the unprotected trench and a serious citation for the lack of a safe means of entry and exit. Sabbow was issued two serious citations for these same hazards and fined $3,250.

“Excavations deeper than five feet must be protected against collapse through shoring, sloping of the soil at an appropriate angle or use of a protective trench box,” said Ohar. “The absence of those required safeguards exposed these workers to one of the most dangerous hazards in construction work. RockHill was well aware of the need for a protective system at this site.”

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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