Cave-In Hazards Lead to $216,000 Fine for R.I. Excavator

OSHA has cited John Rocchio Corp. of Smithfield, R.I., for alleged willful and serious violations of excavation safety standards at a North Kingstown, R.I., worksite. The company faces a total of $216,000 in proposed penalties.

Responding to a report of unsafe conditions at a water line installation, OSHA inspectors found two Rocchio Corp. employees working in an 8-foot-deep excavation that lacked cave-in protection. There was neither a ladder at the excavation site nor any other safe method to exit, and a pile of excavated materials was stored at its edge. OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse, excavated materials be stored at least 2 feet from the edge, and there be a safe means of entering and exiting the excavation.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA issued the company three willful citations carrying $210,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. "The sizable fines proposed here reflect the nature and severity of the cited hazards," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director in Providence, R.I. "An unguarded excavation is always an imminent danger situation since its walls can collapse suddenly and with great force, crushing or burying workers before they can react or escape."

The company also has been issued two serious citations, with $6,000 in fines, for allowing water to accumulate in the excavation and lack of hard hats for employees exposed to overhead hazards. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to meet with OSHA or to contest them to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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