Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Shouldn't These Guys Be in Jail?

Now, many of you know that I have a "thing" about trenching deaths because everyone who runs a business that involves digging trenches should know that workers shouldn't be working in any unshored/unsloped trench over 5 feet deep. What's particularly criminal about the case described in the article below, however, is that this firm was supposedly an "expert" in underground construction. So they don't even get the benefit of playing dumb; they don't get to say they "should" have known about trenching safety. They DID know.

And then the workers were forced to sign a statement (written in a language they didn't understand) saying they had been trained. Now, what good does training do when you're down in an unprotected 10 foot deep trench?

I once taught a workshop for municipal public works employees who regularly went down into deep trenches without any shoring and they were trained -- to dig out their co-workers as fast as possible when the trench caved in on them. (But that was perfectly legal because they were public employees in a small New England state whose biggest city hasn't won a World Series since they sold a certain baseball player.)

On second thought, maybe jail is too good for them.

OSHA Fine for Trenching Death

Associated Press

SANTA YNEZ, Calif. - A Lompoc construction company building the 90,000-square-foot Chumash Casino faces up to $91,000 in fines for violations of federal safety standards that allegedly led to the trench collapse death of a worker.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the violations were particularly egregious because R. Williams Construction represented itself as an expert in underground construction and was hired because of that alleged expertise.

Federal investigators said workers were allegedly asked by R. Williams officials to sign a statement that they had received training in trench work when they hadn't. Some workers said the statement identifying them as trench experts was in English though some could not speak, read or write English, including the Lompoc man injured in the accident, OSHA said.

Jose Aguiniga, 42, of Buellton was killed and his co-worker Adam Palamar suffered a shattered pelvis when the 70-long, 10-foot deep trench they were working in collapsed while they were digging a new sewer line Sept. 19, 2002.

"OSHA excavation and trenching standards clearly state what standards must be in place to protect workers in this type of construction," OSHA deputy regional administrator Christopher Lee said in a statement. "This employer knowingly placed workers at significant risk by failing to take the most basic precautions against trench collapse."