OSHA Cites Wisconsin Excavation Firm for Cave-In Hazards

February 27, 2009

A northern Wisconsin excavating company purposely risked workers to potential trench cave-ins and was cited for safety violations that carry nearly $700,000 in fines, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said.

A-1 Excavating Inc. of Bloomer received 11 citations for life-threatening violations involving a trenching project in Weston last September, the agency said.

The company failed to protect workers from possible cave-ins in an 8-foot-deep trench and piled dirt too close to the edge of the trench, OSHA said, characterizing the violations as intentional and with “plain indifference” to federal workplace safety regulations.

“It has long been known that cave-in fatalities are entirely preventable,” OSHA administrator Donald Shalhoub said in a statement. “Any employer who is involved in trenching and excavation can avoid such terrible tragedies by following OSHA’s clear regulations.”

A-1 Excavating President Terry Pecha was out of the office and not available for comment, a receptionist said. He did not immediately return a telephone message.

OSHA said the company had 15 days to contest the citations.

Brad Mitchell, a spokesman for the U.S. Labor Department in Chicago, said an OSHA official who was driving by the Weston street project spotted the unprotected trench, which led to an inspection and the citations.

The company should have shored up the trench or provided a steel trench box to prevent the walls from collapsing, Mitchell said.

The six citations for a possible cave-in involved six workers being in the risky trench, Mitchell said.

According to OSHA, A-1 Excavating has received 38 workplace safety citations since 1982, including eight for hazards associated with potential cave-ins and seven for piling dirt too close to the edge of a trench.

Between 2003 and 2007, 191 workers in the United States were killed in accidents involving excavation projects or trench cave-ins, OSHA said.


On the Net:

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: http://www.osha.gov

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