Excavation Hazards at Ark. Worksite Bring Citations, Fines Totaling $95,000

July 12, 2004

An Arkansas utility installation company’s alleged failure to protect employees from trenching and excavation hazards has resulted in proposed penalties of $95,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), following the investigation of an accident in March.

Building & Utility Contractors of Redfield, Ark., an installer of water, sewer and utility lines that employs about 30 workers, was issued citations for alleged serious, willful and other violations of safety standards. OSHA’s inspection began March 4 at the company’s Little Rock worksite after an employee was seriously injured when a track hoe ran over his legs, resulting in the amputation of his leg. Two weeks later, while in the hospital, the worker died of a heart attack.

“This tragedy may have been prevented if safety standards had been followed,” said Paul Hansen Jr., OSHA’s Little Rock area office director. “Employers have a responsibility to train their workers so they recognize the dangers of working with machinery that can inflict injuries.”

Three willful citations were issued for failing to ensure adequate precautions were taken to remove accumulated water from the excavation, failing to ensure that a competent person with knowledge of excavation hazards was present at the worksite and failing to ensure that workers were properly protected from cave-ins. OSHA issues a willful citation when there is evidence of the intentional violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or plain indifference to its requirements.

Two alleged serious violations involved failure to properly train and protect workers from excavation hazards and failure to provide adequate egress. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Two other citations were issued for failing to report an employee accident and failing to ensure employees were properly trained on hazardous materials.

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