OSHA Fines Texas Firms $791,300 in 'Egregious' Cases

One involves a trench collapse in which a worker was trapped, the other a 12-foot fall from a roof.

OSHA on July 22 announced enforcement actions with large fines against three Houston-area companies, classifying the violations as egregious in both instances. One involves two companies, Cotton Commercial USA and Gardia Construction, and a worker seriously hurt in a fall; the other involves Hassell Construction Co. Inc. and a trench collapse.

OSHA's news release said the fall victim was a temporary worker who had requested a fall harness. He was working without fall protection on a roof and later fell 12 feet through the roof, according to the release, which said he was hospitalized with fractured arms and severe contusions. Cotton Commercial USA Inc. (Katy, Texas) waited three days to report the injury, although federal law requires employers to report such incidents within 24 hours, according to OSHA.

OSHA fined Cotton Commercial $362,500 for seven safety violations, including one willful and four willful egregious, for failing to provide fall protection for four workers, failure to promptly report the hospitalization of an employee resulting from a workplace incident, and not training employees in the use of fall protection and ladders. OSHA fined Gardia Construction, which provided the laborers to Cotton Commercial, $4,900 for one serious violation for failing to conduct frequent and regular inspections of the job site where its laborers worked.

"Cotton Commercial was well aware of how to prevent safety hazard and, in fact, on the following day, Cotton made sure all workers were provided with the required safety equipment. It shouldn't have to take a serious injury for a company to comply with the law," said OSHA Dallas Regional Administrator John Hermanson.

The other case involved a trench collapse in Richmond, Texas. OSHA placed Hassell Construction Co. Inc. in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program and fined the company $423,900 for 16 safety violations, including six willful egregious violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. "For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses. It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger the lives of workers in trenches," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "An employer is responsible for providing a workplace safe from hazards. Hassell Construction failed to do that in this case."

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