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Employer fined for hazards at Houston job site

As we often discuss, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with keeping workers in Texas and the rest of the country safe by implementing health and safety rules in workplaces. One of the ways OSHA does this is by targeting specific problem areas through programs such as the National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavations.

As part of this program, OSHA conducts investigations at construction sites and workplaces to make sure that rules involving trenches and excavations are being followed. Recently, an investigation took place at a Houston, Texas, construction site that ended with two safety violations with penalties totaling $59,290.

OSHA cited Tejas Underground Utilities LLC with one "willful" and one "serious" violation after excavation hazards were discovered at the company's work site in Houston on Center Street. A spokesman from Houston's OSHA office said that the hazards were putting workers in harm's way, and a serious accident could have occurred if the hazards went unnoticed.

The willful violation was for failing to provide workers who were repairing a storm line in an excavation with safety measures including sloping, shoring or shielding, which protect workers from a possible cave-in. This violation was considered willful, meaning that it was committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard of the law.

The serious violation resulted from leaving excavation materials, including dirt and rocks, within two feet of the edge of the exaction. This is against the law because the materials could fall on the workers, or the materials could cause an unprotected excavation wall to collapse.

As the OSHA spokesman put it, "An excavation site can quickly turn into a grave when an employer fails to implement OSHA's standards to prevent cave-ins."

This company is extremely lucky that nobody was injured or killed as a result of these hazards or it could have faced even bigger penalties in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Source: OSHA Regional News Release, "US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Tejas Underground Utilities for exposing workers to excavation hazards at Houston work site," Jan. 9, 2013

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