As part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor, a Region 1 contractor with a long history of violating excavation safety standards, has agreed to pay a $200,000 fine for exposing its employees to cave-in hazards. The contractor also will significantly overhaul its safety practices to minimize trenching hazards and enhance worker safety.

The employer, which primarily works on underground water and sewer mains, has been cited nine times by OSHA since 2000 for violations of trenching and excavation safety standards, most recently in 2011.

OSHA found employees working in unprotected trenches at both locations and issued citations carrying $354,000 in proposed fines. The contractor contested the citations. The department's regional solicitor's office crafted the settlement agreement, which goes beyond simple correction of the cited hazards.

The company will be paying a hefty fine, but more importantly, it will be investing heavily in the safety and health of all of its workers through a very significantly ramped up safety and health program, says OSHA . The company has now committed itself to entirely re-engineering its safety and health processes, and the agency says it intends to hold the company to that commitment.

In addition to paying the fine the contractor will notify OSHA of all excavation jobs to be undertaken by the company in the next three years, and allow OSHA inspectors free access to enter and inspect the work sites without a warrant, as well as provide documents related to the work being performed at the sites. The company also will develop and put into effect a comprehensive safety and health program that includes an annual audit by an independent, qualified safety and health consultant. Finally, the company will develop and implement a permit system for all of its excavations that will identify and evaluate the hazards of each operation prior to digging, and specify the means by which those hazards will be controlled.

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