Inspector Opens Case After Witnessing Cave-In, Oncoming Traffic Hazards

A lack of cave-in protection at a worksite in Stamford, Conn., has led to $47,700 in proposed fines for a Bridgeport water and sewer contractor, reports OSHA. The agency has cited Anthony Julian Railroad Construction Co. Inc. for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards during an installation of a storm sewer catch basin at the site.

During the installation, an OSHA inspector observed a company employee entering an apparently unprotected excavation. An inspection was opened on the spot and found that the 9-foot, 6-inch deep excavation lacked protection against a collapse of its sidewalls. In addition, the sidewalk above the excavation was undermined and workers in the excavation were not protected against loose and broken rock falling into the excavation, OSHA said. Workers on the ground also lacked adequate protection against being struck by oncoming traffic, the agency added.

"An unprotected excavation can become a grave in seconds. A cave-in can crush and bury workers beneath tons of rock and soil before they have a chance to react or escape," said Kang Yi, OSHA's acting area director in Bridgeport. "Workers should never be directed to enter an excavation until it is properly and effectively protected against collapse."

As a result of its inspection, OSHA has issued the company one willful citation, with a fine of $42,000 for the unprotected excavation, and three serious citations with $5,700 in fines for the remaining hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health, while serious citations are issued 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 proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Area Office in Bridgeport, Conn.

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