OSHA cites Texas construction company for safety violations at Ft. Worth-area jobsite

by Michael Heygood

Excavation workers are exposed to many hazards, but the chief hazard is danger of cave-ins. OSHA requires that in all excavations employees exposed to potential cave-ins must be protected by sloping, or benching the sides of the excavation; supporting the sides of the excavation, or placing a shield between the side of the excavation and the work area.

An OSHA official observed employees working in a trench along the Highway 183 service road in Hurst, Texas without a required shoring system to prevent cave-ins.

OSHA’s Fort Worth Area Office opened an inspection under the agency’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.

Upon conclusion of its investogation, OSHA cited the employer, S.J. Louis Construction of Texas Ltd., with one serious and one repeat safety violation for exposing workers to trenching and excavation hazards at a job site in Hurst where workers were replacing a water line pipe. The proposed penalties total $45,500.

The serious violation is failing to protect workers in the trench from being struck by materials located within 2 feet of the excavation’s edge that could fall into the trench. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violation is failing to provide a required shoring system to prevent a cave-in. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A similar violation was cited at a Carrollton site in 2008.

“This employer did not ensure that workers were protected from a possible cave-in,” said Jack Rector, OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth. “Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous operations in construction, and it is very fortunate that no one was hurt.”

Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards, including safe procedures, is available from the OSHA website. To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, OSHA maintains a toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

by Michael Heygood

Michael Heygood is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses on insurance and corporate litigation, and other civil arenas. Michael has been named multiple times to the Super Lawyers List.