OSHA Cites R.I. Contractor for Cave-In, Asbestos Hazards

February 22, 2006

A Portsmouth, Rhode Island contractor faces a total of $42,600 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for alleged cave-in and asbestos hazards following OSHA inspections at two Portsmouth worksites.

A Nov. 16, 2005, OSHA inspection at 45 Corys Court, reportedly found that employees of East Coast Construction had been working in an unprotected trench deeper than five feet that also lacked a safe means of exit. The employees also lacked head protection and were cutting asbestos-containing piping without required safeguards and protective equipment. Another inspection was begun on Dec. 21 at Ferry Landing after an employee was injured in the collapse of an unprotected, seven-foot deep trench.

“Cave-in protection is essential since an excavation’s sidewalls can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape,” said Fred Joseph, OSHA’s acting area director for Rhode Island. “Hazards of overexposure to asbestos are not as dramatic or as immediate as a cave-in but they, too, carry a very real potential to disable or kill workers.”

Asbestos-related violations found at the Corys Court jobsite included lack of: respiratory protection, employee training, protective clothing, exposure level evaluation, engineering controls to reduce exposure levels, a decontamination area and a regulated area in which to perform asbestos work. In addition, the work was not overseen by a competent person capable of identifying asbestos hazards and selecting appropriate exposure control measures.

As a result, East Coast Construction was issued two repeat citations, with $30,000 in proposed fines, for the unprotected excavations and eight serious citations, with $12,600 in fines, for the asbestos, head protection and means of exit hazards. OSHA had previously cited the company in August 2005 for an unguarded excavation at Freedom Bay in Portsmouth.

A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar hazard and that citation has become final.

East Coast Construction 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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