OSHA Proposes Added Penalties Against Ohio Trenching Company

February 24, 2006

The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed an additional $194,250 in fines against Sunesis Construction Company, West Chester, Ohio, for eight alleged serious violations and three alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety and health standards following inspections at three trenching sites opened between August and October 2005.

The Labor Department’s action marks the second time in two months that OSHA has announced proposed penalties against Sunesis, the first coming in early January when OSHA proposed $150,500 in penalties following a fatality investigation that found improperly installed trench box shielding systems and other violations.

This announcement completes inspection activity in three separate trenching investigations following the company’s first fatality in July. All investigations were related to OSHA’s trenching and excavation national emphasis program and each inspection found workers inadequately protected against potential cave-ins.

An August 2005 inspection reportedly found that a worker was exposed to the hazard while sand was being compacted in a trench that exceeded five feet in depth. One serious citation with a $3,500 proposed penalty was issued in that case, and the violation was immediately corrected at the worksite.

A September 2005 inspection revealed two serious violations with $7,000 in proposed penalties because employees were exposed to the possible collapse of undermined asphalt, and that excavated materials were located on the edge of the trench. Two willful violations were issued with proposed penalties totaling $112,000 as a result of employees working in trenches that were not protected against cave-in, or were working in an improperly installed trench box that did not provide adequate protection against the possibility of a fatal incident.

The October inspection resulted from a fatal accident investigation where a 5 ton steel plate fell on an employee. Five serious violations with penalties totaling $15,750 were issued relating to the rigging equipment and one willful violation with a penalty of $56,000 was issued for inadequate protection from trench collapse.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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