The most serious safety citation that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issues for dangerous workplace conduct or conditions is a “willful violation.” OSHA deems that an employer cited for a willful violation either knew or should reasonably have known that a hazardous condition existed that would likely result in the death or injury of a worker and, nonetheless, took no remedial action to eliminate the hazard. The most commonly cited willful violation relates to an employer’s acts or omissions that directly contribute to excavation accidents.
It is seldom difficult to find a recently issued willful violation somewhere in the United States in this context, given the magnitude of persistent and ongoing construction projects that involve digging and trench work.
A case close to home concern Bontrager Excavating LTD, an Ohio company that just found itself on the wrong end of an OSHA investigation of its operations following a trench collapse in Stark County in 2010 that killed one worker and injured another.
In response to that accident, OSHA issued Bontrager two willful and two serious safety violations, as well as one repeat violation, for failure to adequately protect the workers. It also fined the company $158,000.
Howard Eberts, OSHA’s area director in Cleveland, said that the safety lapses were egregious, especially given the agency emphasis on excavation safety over the past 20-plus years. “The industry is well aware of the safety regulations for trenching operations,” he noted.
The workers were installing sewer lines in a Stark County neighborhood when the trench collapsed.
Related Resource: For Construction Pros, “OSHA Fines OH Contractor $158,000 for Willful, Repeat Violations in Trench Cave-in Death” June 21, 2011