On-the-Spot Excavation Inspection Leads to Nearly $70K in Fines

OSHA has cited J.A.M. Construction Co. Inc., of Middletown, R.I., for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of excavation safety standards following an inspection at a jobsite in Newport, R.I. The contractor faces a total of $69,600 in proposed penalties.

Agency inspectors passing by the worksite observed workers inside an apparently unprotected excavation and opened an on-the-spot inspection. OSHA found that the trench, which was up to 6 feet 4 inches deep, lacked worker safeguards against a collapse of its sidewalls. This cave-in hazard was exacerbated by the absence of a ladder or other safe means of exit, and by accumulating water, inspectors noted.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA issued the company one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $56,000 for the unprotected excavation; one repeat citation, with a fine of $8,000 for a missing ladder; and one serious citation, with a $5,600 penalty for water in the trench.

"You cannot overstate the gravity of this hazard," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "A cave-in can occur in seconds with soil and debris engulfing workers before they can react or escape. Employers know that an excavation must have effective cave-in protection in place every time a worker enters it. Failure to provide such protection could result in serious injury or death for a worker."

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health; it 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 repeat citation stems from OSHA having cited the company in September 2007 for a similar hazard at a worksite in Middletown, R.I.

J.A.M. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, meet with OSHA, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Providence Area Office.

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