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May 16, 2008

OSHA fines a North Little Rock, Ark., $79,000 for trenching and excavation hazards

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U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA fines Voegele Mechanical Contractors in North Little Rock, Ark., $79,000 for trenching and excavation hazards

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a North Little Rock, Ark. facility, with proposed penalties totaling $79,000 for allegedly failing to protect employees from trenching hazards during the installation of a water pipe.

OSHA has alleged three willful and one serious violation following an investigation under the agency’s National Emphasis Program on excavation and trenching that began March 17 when an OSHA investigator observed employees working in a 7-foot-deep unprotected trench.

“The OSHA inspection revealed that the company did not take appropriate action to protect its employees from serious injury,” said Dean McDaniel, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe and healthful at all times.” The willful violations include the employer failing to provide a safe egress from a trench greater than 4 feet deep; to ensure the materials removed from the trench are kept at least 2 feet from the edge of an excavation; and to ensure employees in an excavation greater than 5 feet in depth be protected from a cave-in. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The serious violation is for the employer failing to properly instruct all employees in the hazards and regulations applicable to excavation and trenching. Serious violations are issued when there is a substantial probability that death or serious injury could occur from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth, Texas, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Employers and employees with questions about workplace safety and health may contact OSHA’s Little Rock Area Office at 501-224-1841. A toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742 may be used to report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to employees.

OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting more than 39,000 inspections in fiscal year 2007 and exceeding its inspection goals in each of the last eight years. In fiscal year 2007, OSHA found nearly 89,000 violations of its standards and regulations.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

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