Texas Company Cited in Trench Collapse

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Ramos Industries Inc of Houston and proposed penalties totaling $116,500 from a partial trench collapse that trapped a worker.

OSHA cited the company with one alleged willful, four alleged serious and one alleged repeat violation following an investigation that began Dec. 7, 2004, when an employed working in a 17-foot deep trench at a construction site in Palmhurst, Texas, was trapped for several hours while rescuers had to shore up the lower portions of the trench before they could enter to extract the injured worker.

“The investigation revealed that the employee was working in an unguarded trench without an escape ladder,” said John Giefer, OSHA Corpus Christi area director. “By not following OSHA trenching standards, the employer exposed to unnecessary hazards.”

The willful citation was for failing to install trench protective systems so that less than two feet of unprotected trench wall existed below the bottom of the trench box. 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.

The serious citations were for failing to properly move trench boxes to prevent damage during transportation, failing to provide a competent person to daily inspect trenches and failing to use a trench protective system with appropriate strength. 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.

The repeat citation is for failing to have a safe means of entering and exiting trenches. A violation is designated as repeat when a similar citation for the same hazard was issued in the previous three years.

Ramose Industries employs about 254 workers and is headquartered in Houston.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA Corpus Christi area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.