The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long recognized excavating as one of the most hazardous construction operations, stressing the importance of accident prevention programs in preventing employee injuries. This month, however, a worker was hospitalized at a Hassell Construction Co. Inc. job site that OSHA found to be in violation of multiple safety regulations.
An employee of the Houston-area suffered serious injuries after an unprotected trench collapsed in Richmond, Texas buried him in eight feet of earth. Hassell now faces fines totaling close to $424,000 and 16 safety citations from OSHA, including six egregious willful violations for failing to protect its workers from cave-ins and nine serious violations. These include failing to remove debris from the edge of the construction site, provide workers with a safe means to get in and out of the excavation or conduct atmospheric testing inside trenches after a sewer leak.
While excavation is generally considered to be a hazardous construction operation, "trench cave-ins are preventable," says John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "There are long-established, basic precautions. They're not new and they're not secret. Hassell Construction knew its trenches weren't safe, but still put its workers in harm's way."
Hassell Construction employs about 150 workers on projects constructing sewer and water lines in the Houston area. Since the incident in Richmond, Hassell finds itself in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which inspects employers who have demonstrated an indifference to workplace safety and mandates follow-up inspections to ensure future compliance with OSHA regulations.
As was the case in Richmond, construction site safety carries with it a high-risk potential. For advice on creating a site safety plan of your own, reach out to us at Safety Advantage, LLC.