A suburban Toledo construction firm is facing as much as $135,800 in fines from federal worker safety officials for allegedly exposing its workers to trench cave-in hazards at two excavation sites in April and May.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Gleason Construction Co. Inc. of Holland for three willful violations for failing to properly install sufficient cave-in protection shields, failing to provide employees with safe entrance to and exit from a trench, and failing to ensure not more than two feet of material was excavated below a protective shield system.
The construction firm also received citations for two serious infractions of safety rules for failing to prevent debris from striking employees working in a trench and to ensure workers are protected against cave-ins while entering and exiting trenches.
In addition, the company received one repeat serious violation for allegedly failing to ensure safe egress from the trench.
All of the cited violations occurred during inspections of work sites on April 5 in Holland and May 27 in Toledo, said Jule Hove, OSHA's area director in Toledo.
A willful violation of OSHA rules is considered the most severe and carries the stiffest penalties. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Serious violations are those in which death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
Asked to comment on the alleged violations of worker safety regulations, a spokesman for Gleason Construction said only that "we do not agree with them" and the citations were "under review." The firm can appeal the citations and fine.
Since 1986, Gleason Construction has been inspected on 26 other occasions, resulting in 17 serious, one willful, and eight other-than-serious citations, including violations for cave-in protection and defective rigging, an OSHA spokesman said.
Gleason has 15 business days from the receipt of its latest citations and penalties to pay the $135,800 fine, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, OSHA officials said.
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