Engulfment Hazards Add Up to $94,050 in Fines for Georgia Firm

OSHA found that employees installing a new sewer line were exposed to engulfment hazards while working in an 8-foot-deep trench without any protective system in place.

OSHA has cited D&J's Trenching Services of Mansfield, Ga., with five safety violations and $94,050 in penalties for exposing workers to unsafe trenching practices at a job site in Covington, Ga.

OSHA found that employees installing a new sewer line were exposed to engulfment hazards while working in an 8-foot-deep trench without any protective system in place. OSHA issued the company one willful citation with a $69,300 proposed penalty for allegedly allowing workers in the unprotected trench despite knowing its depth, knowing the OSHA requirements and previously having been cited for this same violation three times within the past five years.

A repeat violation with a $13,860 fine was cited for exposing workers to fall and engulfment hazards while working in a trench without a safe means of exit.

Three serious violations with penalties totaling $10,890 include exposing workers to electrical hazards by not properly supporting an underground electrical line, fall hazards by allowing employees to access a portable ladder that did not extend at least 3 feet higher than the trench wall, and chemical hazards by not implementing a hazard communication program while employees were using hazardous chemicals such as diesel fuels and oils.

"Excavation and trenching are some of the most hazardous operations in construction. This company's management is well aware of OSHA's rules, yet they continue to ignore the dangers," said William Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta East Area Office. "Anyone who performs these types of operations knows that the walls of a trench, without a protective system, will cave in sooner or later. This employer is choosing to risk the lives of workers every time they enter an unprotected excavation."

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