R.I. Contractor Cited for 'Willful' Cave-in Hazard, Other Violations

OSHA has cited J.A.M. Construction Co. Inc. for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of excavation safety standards at a Newport, R.I., worksite. The Middletown, R.I., contractor faces a total of $59,500 in proposed fines. The citations and penalties resulted from OSHA's April 15 inspection of a water line installation at the site. Inspectors found J.A.M. employees working in an excavation deeper than 6 feet that lacked adequate protection against cave-ins. OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.

"The hazard here was imminent and potentially deadly," said Patrick Griffin, director of OSHA's Providence Area office, which conducted the investigation. "The walls of an excavation can collapse instantly, burying or crushing employees before they can react or escape. While it is fortunate that no collapse occurred, protecting employees against cave-ins cannot and must never be a matter of luck."

OSHA consequently has issued to J.A.M. one willful citation, carrying a proposed fine of $49,000. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. OSHA also has issued the company one repeat citation, with a $6,000 fine, for storing excavated material less than two feet from the edge of the excavation. The agency had cited the company in September 2007 for a similar hazard at a Middletown jobsite.

Additionally, OSHA has issued the company two serious citations, with $4,500 in fines, for inadequate support for an undermined stone wall crossing the top of the excavation, as well as no protective helmets for employees working in the excavation. Detailed information on trenching and excavation safety, including an e-Tool, is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/constructiontrenching/index.html.

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