OSHA Fines Texas Company After Trenching Fatality

June 22, 2005

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited KCC Group Inc., Pearland, Texas, and proposed penalties totaling $133,000 for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards that led to an employee’s death.

OSHA began its investigation Dec. 23, 2004, in response to a trench cave-in at a worksite on York Blvd. in Pearland. One worker was killed; another dug himself free and escaped without serious injury. OSHA citations against the company alleged two willful, 10 serious and two other-than-serious violations of safety and health standards.

“OSHA standards for trenching and excavation are very specific and designed to protect workers from cave-ins,” said Chuck Williams, OSHA’s area director for the Houston South office. “This tragic death could have been avoided, and OSHA will not tolerate employers who expose workers to preventable hazards.”

The two willful citations were issued for failing to provide a protective system in an excavation more than seven feet deep and to support, protect or remove underground installations to safeguard workers. A willful violation is defined as an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the OSHA law and regulations.

The serious violations involve employee exposure to hazards associated with excavations, including failure to: remove employees from a hazardous excavation; support adjoining structures; locate any spoils pile at least two feet from the edge of the excavation; provide a safe way to exit the trench, protect workers from water accumulation in the excavation. A serious violation is issued when death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Failure to protect employees from protruding re-enforcement steel and not maintaining a required log of injuries and illnesses resulted in the other-than-serious citations against the company. Other-than-serious violations are hazards not likely to cause death or serious physical harm but directly and immediately related to employee safety and health.

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

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