Unused Trench Box Leads to 'Willful' Charge, $44,000 Propose Penalty

OSHA is proposing $48,000 in penalties against construction firm James R. Payne Inc. for four safety violations, including one willful violation that alone is for $44,000. Agency staff initiated the inspection as part of a national emphasis program on reducing injuries and fatalities related to trenching and excavation in the construction industry.

When OSHA compliance staff visited the Mobile, Ala., construction site, they found a protective trench box sitting unused, while employees worked in a trench that contained water. The company's failure to utilize equipment designed to protect employees is resulting in the "willful" $44,000 proposed penalty. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The agency is proposing $4,000 in penalties for two serious violations by the company: allowing employees to work in a trench with accumulated water without taking the proper precautions, and not initiating and maintaining a safety and health program. In addition, OSHA has proposed an other-than-serious violation against the company for failing to properly maintain records at the jobsite.

"There is no excuse for endangering employees and ignoring OSHA standards by having the proper safety equipment at the worksite but not using it," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's acting area director in Mobile, the office that conducted the investigation. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest them and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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