The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Witt Plumbing Inc. for trenching hazards after an unprotected trench collapsed at a residential construction site on Jan 16, killing a worker. The worker was locating a sewage drainpipe at the site in Hastings, Neb. when the trench cave-in occurred.
The company has been charged with five safety violations, including two willful and three serious violations. Consequently, OSHA has slapped Witt Plumbing with $157,000 in proposed fines.
“This tragedy might have been prevented with the use of protective shoring the company had 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,” OSHA’s area director in Omaha, Bonita Winingham. “No job should cost a worker’s life because an employer failed to properly protect and train them.”
The two willful infractions, which involve an intentional disregard of the law, include failing to provide a protective system for workers against cave-in dangers in an unprotected trench more than five feet deep and failing to provide a means of exit from a ditch.
The trenching and excavation safety standards of OSHA mandate that any trench deeper than five feet requires a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. In other cases, no protective system is required when a trench is less than 5 feet deep and a competent person finds no indication of a trench cave-in after examining the ground.
The company has also been fined for failing to provide training to workers on trenching hazards, lack of hazard communication program, and for the absence of a competent person who can conduct trench and excavation inspections to determine if a protective system is required or not. All three violations have been cited as serious since they increase the probability of death or physical harm.
Witt Plumbing in OSHA’s SVE program
Due to the violations cited and the nature of the hazards, the company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which requires regular follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.
Earlier, the West Decatur, PA excavating company Lumadue Excavating LLC, was placed under SVEP and was fined a total of $178,860 after being cited for 12 safety violations for trenching hazards.