WARWICK, RI —Federal inspectors at a Warwick excavation July 8 found Greenville and Johnston contractors ignoring cave-in risks, placing workers in serious danger from an unsafe sewer trench.
The contractors were fined $11,000 and $63,000 respectively, for the safety breaches.
On July 8, a U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection at a sewer installation site 1129 Main Ave. in Warwick determined employees of Reyes Landscaping Inc. – doing business as Reyes Landscaping & Masonry in Johnston – and TRD Contracting LLC in Greenville, were working in a 5 – 8 ft. deep trench without cave-in protection. Adding to the hazard, the employer allowed soil removed from the trench to pile up at the trench’s edge, causing some materials to fall back into the trench.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the sidewalls of an unprotected trench can collapse without warning and with great force – crushing and sometimes suffocating workers beneath tons of soil and debris – before they can react or escape. Warwick firefighters train to rescue the victims of such collapses as part of the WFD Technical Rescue team, shown in this 2016 story and video.
“An unprotected trench can be an early grave. While no collapse occurred in Warwick, the danger to these workers was real and imminent. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small car,” said OSHA Area Director Robert Sestito, in Providence. “For the safety and survival of their employees, employers must ensure that workers enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-ins and related hazards.”
Inspectors also recorded the following hazards at the Warwick site:
– A competent person – one with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct hazards – did not inspect the trench before starting work.
– The employees lacked helmets to protect against falling objects.
– Using an inadequate ladder to enter and exit the trench.
– Using an uninspected and unlabeled steel alloy chain sling to lift objects.
OSHA returned to the work site on July 13 and found that Reyes Landscaping had not corrected the hazards, continuing to expose its employees to cave-in and struck-by hazards in a 9 foot, 6 inch deep trench. As a result, OSHA cited Reyes Landscaping for two willful and five serious violations, with $63,586 in proposed penalties for hazards observed on both dates. Separately, the agency cited TRD Contracting for four serious violations, with $11,704 in penalties, for the July 8 hazards.
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