Excavation Firm's Citations Piling Up; Latest Nears $700,000

OSHA has cited the Bloomer, Wis.-based A-1 Excavating Inc. for alleged willful violations of federal workplace safety standards, proposing nearly $700,000 in penalties for numerous life-threatening violations at a trenching operation in Weston, Wis.

In September 2008, OSHA opened an inspection at the excavation jobsite in Weston after an agency inspector observed employees exposed to cave-in hazards while working in an 8-foot-deep, unprotected trench. As a result of the inspection, the agency issued six instance-by-instance willful citations to the company for failing to protect employees from cave-in hazards, and five instance-by-instance willful citations for failing to set the spoil pile material excavated from the trench two feet or more from the edge of the excavation. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"It has long been known that cave-in fatalities are entirely preventable," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Donald Shalhoub. "Any employer who is involved in trenching and excavation can avoid such terrible tragedies by following OSHA's clear regulations. Those who ignore safe practices and OSHA regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their employees and their families."

According to OSHA, A-1 Excavating has received 38 citations from the agency since 1982, including at least eight citations for hazards associated with potential cave-ins, and seven citations for having the spoil pile too close to the trench edge. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Appleton, Wis., or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Detailed information on trenching and excavation safety, including an interactive e-Tool, is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

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