Saturday, April 5, 2008

Another Trenching Incident

“Feds Assess Large Safety Fine”

This article was taken from the (Mobile) Press Register’s Saturday issue on April 5, 2008 by Jeff Amy, Business Reporter. It is just another example of contractors not properly protecting employees during trenching operations by doing it the Donkey Way.
“A construction company has been fined $31,500 by federal officials because of problems with excavation safety rules.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Mobile office fined (the company) based in (Alabama) over problems at the company’s work site (in the Mobile area). Road work there has centered on lengthening (a road), which connects with (an Interstate Eschange0.
The fine is one of the largest levied by the Mobile office in the last 12 months, according to a Press-Register examination of OSHA records. OSHA proposed a $60,000 fine earlier this year against (another company) for violations at its foundry, but reduced that fine to $18,500 after negotiations.
All of the violations that OSHA found at the (above) site were related to excavation and trench safety. The federal agency has extensive standards relating to how workers must be protected when working in trenches because many workers have been injured or killed when earthworks collapse.
The (above company’s) fine was so high because one of the five violations cited was a repeat violation, similar to one found at another work site, said (the company’s) vice president. That ended up costing the company $25,000.
“Normally it would not have been so high,” the VP said.
(The VP) said the fine resulted in part because the company and OSHA had different interpretations about how stable the kind of soil at the site was.
“There was no one injured,’ (the VP) said “There was no potential for anyone to be injured.”
OSHA originally proposed $37,000 in fines, but reduced some amounts last month after an informal settlement conference. Heads of OSHA offices are allowed to cut fines following such meetings.
(Note: I chose not to identify the company or their VP in this article to make it more generalized, even though the newspaper item is a public document.)
This shows that the monetary cost of violations relating to trenching operations and apparently were proven by the assessment of the fine. The $31,500 fine and the earlier $25,000 fine are far less in the amount it would have cost the contractor to use “Horse Sense” to analyze the soils appropriately and had taken proper steps to create a “Safe Work” site. Besides this fact, the fines, insurance costs and many other costs that COULD have occurred if there had one or more fatalities in doing the work the “Donkey Way.”
“Which makes the Safest and Best Way:
“Horse Sense” way or the “Donkey Way?”

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