Mississippi Trench Death Leads to $73,500 Fine

OSHA has cited Phillips Construction in Hernando, Miss., with nine safety violations following an October 2008 trench collapse in Horn Lake, Miss., that resulted in the death of one worker and injury to another. The total $73,500 in proposed penalties the company faces includes one willful citation that alone is worth $49,000 for failing to provide cave-in protection, such as shoring, sloping, or a trench box, for its employees. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

In addition, the agency has cited six serious safety violations with $21,000 in proposed penalties for the company's failing to develop and maintain safety and health programs, provide training on trenching hazards, provide personal protective equipment, provide a means of egress from the trench, keep excavated soil at least two feet away from the trench edge, and remove surface encumbrances from the trench side. A serious violation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

Also, the company has been cited with two other-than-serious violations with $3,500 in proposed penalties for failing to notify OSHA of a fatality within eight hours of the incident. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Jackson, Miss., or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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