The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited an Albany, New York construction contractor for an unguarded trench and other safety hazards following the death of one of its workers at a Cohoes worksite.
An employee of K & M Construction Inc. died July 21, 2004, after the nine-foot-deep excavation in which he was working collapsed on him. The accident took place at the Brighton Pointe housing complex construction site off Western Ave. in Cohoes, where K & M was installing a storm sewer system.
OSHA’s inspection reportedly determined that the excavation lacked any form of cave-in protection. Safety standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected against the collapse of their sidewalls. Protection can include shoring the excavation’s walls or using a protective trenchbox, but neither safeguard was in use at the time of the accident.
“Cave-in protection is necessary to prevent accidents just like this one,” said John Tomich, OSHA’s Albany area director. “The walls of a trench can collapse without warning and with great force, trapping workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape.”
The inspection identified additional hazards, including piles of excavated material placed too close to the trench’s edge, no proper means for workers to safely exit the trench, employees working underneath the operating bucket of a track-hoe removing soil from the trench, and no protective helmets for workers.
As a result, K & M Construction was cited for five alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and faces $5,800 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.
The company has elected to contest its citations and proposed fines before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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