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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) has cited R.V. Wagner Inc. of Affton, Missouri, for exposing employees to trench engulfment hazards as they installed concrete storm water pipes in St. Louis. OSHA proposed penalties of $212,158 to the concrete contractor for violations of its trench safety standards.

OSHA cited two willful violations: one for failing to use a trench box or other trench protection techniques in an excavation greater than five feet in depth, and another provide a safe means to exit the excavation.

“Employers must ensure that employees enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-in hazards,” says OSHA St. Louis Area Director Bill McDonald. “A trench collapse can happen in just seconds, potentially burying employees under thousands of pounds of soil and causing severe injury.”

OSHA also cited R.V. Wagner for three serious violations: allowing soil and other excavated material within two feet of an open trench; failing to ensure daily inspections of worksites by a competent person; and exposing employees to struck-by hazards by allowing employees to work near and under lifted loads without hard hats.

OSHA recently updated its National Emphasis Program on preventing trenching and excavation collapses and developed a series of compliance assistance resources to help keep workers safe from these hazards. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage provides information on trenching hazards and solutions. Additional information is available in OSHA’s construction hazards prevention videos on trenching and soil classification.

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

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