Contractor Faces $116,200 in Fines for 'Imminent' Cave-in Situations

OSHA says the failure of the John Rocchio Corp to provide cave-in protection for employees at three Rhode Island jobsites has resulted in a total of $116,200 in proposed fines. The Smithfield, R.I.-based contractor was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following agency inspections conducted June 1, June 13, and June 26 at worksites in East Greenwich and North Kingstown. All three inspections, which were conducted in response to reports of excavation hazards, found employees working in unprotected trenches and excavations ranging from six to nearly nine feet in depth.

"On all three occasions, the company was reminded of its responsibility to provide cave-in protection, yet we repeatedly found employees working in imminent danger situations," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director in Providence. "Equally disturbing is the fact that we have cited this employer six times in the past 10 years for this same type of hazard, and this behavior has not changed."

All excavations five feet or deeper must be guarded because their walls can collapse suddenly and with great force, burying employees beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape, Griffin added. "While it is fortunate that no cave-in occurred, there is no margin for error in this type of situation. The potential for death or disabling injuries was real and present at these three jobsites. Wherever and whenever this basic, common-sense and legally required safeguard is ignored, OSHA will continue to be present," he said.

OSHA issued two willful citations and one serious citation, carrying a combined $109,200 in proposed fines, for the lack of cave-in protection. The agency also issued three serious citations, with $7,000 in fines, for allowing more than two feet of a trench's sidewall to be exposed below the bottom of a trench box, allowing an employee in an excavation to work without a hardhat and not properly shoring a telephone pole adjacent to an excavation.

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