When a company appears to take the safety of its workers for granted, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can step in. The agency can levy fines and penalties reaching thousands of dollars if they think it is warranted. The cost to the company is considered a deterrent to unsafe practices, meant to help prevent a future workplace accident from happening.
A Massachusetts excavation company is facing fines of nearly $150,000. The penalty was assessed for safety violations incurred while the company’s workers were completing a water pipe installation. According to OSHA officials, the investigation was prompted by anonymous complaints about the working conditions at one of the company’s construction projects.
The OSHA investigation discovered that workers were attempting to do their jobs in trenches that did not have adequate protection against potential injury. There was no ladder available in case one was needed to quickly exit the trench. Debris had piled up around the trench’s opening and could potentially fall on the workers below at any time.
To be in compliance with the OSHA regulations, the company should have shored up the walls of the trench with protective measures that minimized the possibility they would collapse. This is true any time workers are in an area that is located five feet or more in the ground. It did not happen in this instance, according to OSHA.
This is not the first time this Massachusetts company has been cited for safety violations. OSHA officials say the business has a “long history” of turning a blind eye to issues dealing with workplace safety. So far, on this worksite, there has not been a serious workplace accident, but OSHA’s findings indicate that may just be a matter of time. If that happens, the victim, or the victim’s family in the case of a death, may well be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The state-regulated benefits could be one way that the victims can cover the cost of medical expenses and lost income.
Source: The Patriot Ledger, Contractor cited for trench violations at Milton job site, No author, Feb. 11, 2014