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Company Cited Again for Cave-In Danger

Monday, June 2, 2014

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For the second time this year, a Chicago engineering company is facing a federal fine of more than $100,000 for allegedly exposing workers to trench cave-in hazards on a water and sewer line project.

The most recent inspection of Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. Inc. alleges three violations—two willful and one serious—with proposed penalties totaling $147,000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced May 20.

In January, the company was issued four violations and proposed penalties of $105,600 for failing to adhere to trenching standards. Pan-Oceanic Engineering has contested those violations, according to OSHA.

Pan-Oceanic Engineering
Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. Inc.

Chicago-based Pan-Oceanic Engineering has been cited by OSHA twice this year for trenching hazards. On both occasions, proposed penalties topped $100,000.

"It is completely unacceptable that Pan-Oceanic Engineering continues to put workers at such great risk," said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in Calumet City, IL.

'Lack of Commitment' to Safety

"Since 2003, this company has been cited multiple times for violations of trenching standards, which result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. Pan-Oceanic Engineering's repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to the safety of its workers," Webb said.

A search of OSHA's records shows that the company has been inspected nine times between May 2007 and November 2013; all but one inspection resulted in violations.

Pan-Oceanic Engineering was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program in January.

The Severe Violator Enforcement Program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law, and OSHA can inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday (May 30).

The Violations

OSHA says it launched the inspection under the National Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation.

trenching and excavation hazards
osha.gov

OSHA placed Pan-Oceanic Engineering in its Severe Violator Enforcment Program in January after citing the company for trenching violations. Now, the firm faces more citations for cave-in hazards.

The two willful violations, with proposed penalties of $140,000, were issued for failing to:

  • Ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench that exceeded five feet in depth; and
  • Support the street pavement above the trench from collapsing on the workers.

Willful violations, OSHA's highest level of infraction, are those allegedly committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

One serious violation, carrying a $7,000 proposed penalty, was cited after a competent person found evidence of potential cave-in hazards and failed to remove employees from the situation, OSHA says.

A serious violation reflects substantial probability that death or serious injury could result from a hazard the employer knew, or should have known, about.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 

   

Tagged categories: Citations; Health and safety; OSHA; Sewer systems; Violations; Workers

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