A Staten Island contractor’s repeated failure to protect workers against cave-in hazards has resulted in $133,000 in proposed fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Able Plumbing Inc. was cited for a total of four alleged willful and repeat violations of safety standards following an OSHA inspection of a sewer line installation at 822 Lamont Ave. on Staten Island.
OSHA’s inspection reportedly found company employees working in a seven-foot-deep trench that lacked any protection against a collapse of its sidewalls. This is the sixth time since 1998 that Able Plumbing has been cited for failing to provide cave-in protection.
“Trenches can collapse suddenly and with great force, burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s Avenel, N.J., area director. “This employer knew collapse protection was required and did not provide it, even though a protective trench box was present on the job site.”
As a result, OSHA issued one willful citation for the lack of collapse protection. The citation carries a proposed fine of $70,000, the maximum allowed under law. 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.
Three repeat citations, accounting for $63,000 of the total penalties, were issued for failing to: provide a ladder, stairway or other safe means of exit from the trench; ensure that sidewalks, pavement and adjacent structures were not undermined by the trench; and keep excavated materials at least two feet from the trench’s edge.
Repeat citations are issued when an employer has previously been cited for similar hazards and those citations have become final. OSHA cited Able Plumbing for similar hazards in November 2004, February 2004 and April 2003.
Able Plumbing has 15 business days from receipt of the citations 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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