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Trench Collapse Nets $424K Fine

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

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A Texas construction company that specializes in infrastructure faces more than $420,000 in fines for 16 citations it received when a trench collapsed on one of its workers earlier this year.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied the fines—six for what the agency said were willful violations—July 22 against Houston-based Hassell Construction Co. In a statement, OSHA’s Dr. David Michaels blasted the company for failing to protect the worker who was hospitalized with serious injuries.

“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 Michaels, who is OSHA’s assistant secretary for labor.

‘Preventable’ Cave-In

The collapse occurred on a Richmond, TX, construction site, according to OSHA’s statement. The agency said that the injured worker was not adequately protected when the 8-foot trench buried him in dirt. Moments after co-workers dug him out, the trench collapsed again, OSHA said.

© / Bryngelzon

Hassell Construction Co., of Houston, faces $423,900 in fines for 16 violations that OSHA said it committed when a trench collapsed on a worker earlier this year.

“Trench cave-ins are preventable,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas, in its statement. “There are long-established, basic precautions.

“They’re not new, and they’re not secret,” said Hermanson. “Hassell Construction knew its trenches weren’t safe, but still put its workers in harm’s way.”

In the citations, OSHA listed nine serious violations and one other-than-serious violation in addition to the six willful ones.

A List of Violations

The violations cited and their fines were:

  • Failing to protect workers in a trench of greater than 5 feet in depth with an adequate protective system, six separate willful violations of $63,000 each for a total of $378,000;
  • Failing to provide a fire hydrant at a refueling site, serious, $2,700;
  • Not identifying steel chains and failing to inspect chains, one of which failed, serious, $6,300;
  • Allowing exposed moving parts, specifically the starter assembly on a generator, serious, $3,600;
  • Failing to remove a street sign and secure mailboxes and a fire hydrant near the work site, both of which caused surface or struck-by hazards, serious, $4,500;
  • Neglecting to provide a ladder, ramp or other entrance/exit for workers inside a trench more than 4 feet in depth on several occasions, serious, $6,300;
  • Repairing a broken sewer line inside a trench without checking the atmosphere for oxygen deficiency first, serious, $4,500;
  • Keeping spoils, materials and equipment too close to a trench (fewer than 2 feet away) on multiple occasions, serious, $6,300;
  • Providing employees in a trench with defective portable ladders that did not extend at least 3 feet above the top of the trench for entrance/egress, serious, $4,500;
  • Using a defective ladder for employee entrance/egress into a trench, serious, $2,700; and
  • Failing to provide hand soap for workers, other-than-serious, $900.

Hassell Construction has 15 business days to contest the citations, comply with them or set up a conference with OSHA. The agency could not immediately provide information about whether or not the company had responded to the citations.

Hassell does not have a website. OSHA said in its statement that the construction company employs about 150 people and performs work on water and sewer lines in the Houston area.

A woman who answered the phone at Hassell said Friday (July 31) that the company did not wish to make a comment about the citations at this time.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Health & Safety; Infrastructure; North America; OSHA; OSHA

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (8/4/2015, 2:37 AM)

Same accident - different people!

Comment from Doug Johnson, (8/4/2015, 10:43 AM)

I agree same problem different day. I guess they don’t realize the risk they are taking.

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