The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Witt Plumbing Inc. for five safety violations, including two willful, after a worker died from injuries received when a trench collapsed at a job site in Hastings, Jan. 16. The worker was locating a sewage drain pipe at a home under construction when the unprotected trench collapsed.
“This tragedy might have been prevented with the use of protective shoring that the company planned to bring to the job site that afternoon. All too often, compromising safety procedures has tragic consequences, and hazards like these cause numerous deaths and injuries every year,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “No job should cost a worker’s life because an employer failed to properly protect and train them.”
The two willful violations involve failing to provide cave-in protection to workers in an unprotected trench more than 5 feet deep and to provide a means of egress from a trench. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Additionally, three serious violations involve failing to train workers on trenching hazards, lack of a hazard communication program, and failing to have a competent person conduct trench and excavation inspections. A serious violation occurs 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.
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
Due to the nature of the hazards and the willful violations cited, Witt Plumbing has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities or job sites. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=4503.
OSHA has proposed fines of $157,000 as a result of the incident. The current citations may be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Witt_Plumbing_Inc_831581_06_20_13.pdf. Witt Plumbing has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Omaha Office at 402-553-0171. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.