Prior to January 20th, 2017, it was almost a daily occurrence for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a press release about a large fine they have recently levied against businesses. Since January 20th, news coming directly from OSHA has been extremely sparse. There were some updates, like the delay of their new silica dust exposure rule and information about their “Safe and Sound Campaign,” but nothing about recent fines and citations.
It’s not clear what stopped the organization from posting these types of “public shaming” posts, but some believe it’s connected to President Trump’s more pro-business approach. Whatever the reason may be, it appears to no longer be an issue, because OSHA has posted their first citation announcement in almost 3 months…and it’s a big one.
In October of 2016, two men were killed after a 12-foot-deep trench collapsed, which, in turn, broke a fire hydrant supply line, which then caused the trench to flood with water in seconds. After OSHA’s investigation, they are proposing $1,475,813 in fines against Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc and cited the company for 18 willful, repeat, serious, and other-than-serious violations. During the investigation, OSHA determined that the company and the owner, who was overseeing the work that day, failed to:
- Install a support system to protect employees in an approximately 12-foot deep trench from a cave-in and prevent the adjacent fire hydrant from collapsing.
- Remove employees from the hazardous conditions in the trench.
- Train the workers in how to identify and address hazards associated with trenching and excavation work.
- Provide a ladder at all times so employees could exit the trench.
- Support structures next to the trench that posed overhead hazards.
- Provide employees with hardhats and eye protection.
The full list of citations can be viewed on OSHA’s website by clicking here. OSHA stated that this same company was also cited for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012.
Trench collapses are easily avoidable by taking appropriate precautions before allowing employees to enter the hole. Sadly, trench related deaths more than doubled in 2016 vs. 2015, but we certainly hope that trend is bucked in 2017. The government is also becoming less tolerant of jobsite deaths involving trenches, as both a site foreman and the general contractor of a different trench collapse in New York were charged with criminally negligent homicide last year.
For more information about trench safety, you can read OSHA’s standards here.