OSHA fines Memphis contractor for violations at worksite

VERONA — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $55,375 in penalties against Memphis, Tenn.-based contractor MTE Contracting, LLC for four safety violations at a Verona store construction site.

An inspection was initiated when an OSHA compliance officer was passing by the site in November and observed cave-in hazards involving a trench that was being dug.
One willful violation with a $44,000 penalty involves failing to use either a trench shield system or a sloping and benching system to prevent the soil from collapsing into the trench. The trench was being dug in soil that previously had been disturbed and contained broken concrete, metal, brick and water; consequently, it was more likely to collapse and place the workers at risk of a cave-in. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Three serious violations with fines of $11,375 include allowing an employee to enter and leave the trench by riding in the bucket of an excavator, piling soil close to the edge of the trench where it could fall into the trench and trap workers, and failing to provide a ladder or ramp for employees to exit the trench. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
“A trench can become a grave in a matter of seconds. Good safety practices can prevent trench collapses that cause needless injuries and even deaths,” said Clyde Payne, the agency’s area director in Jackson. “OSHA will not allow employers to endanger workers’ lives by disregarding safety standards.”
MTE has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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