An Illinois sewer and water contractor based in Schaumburg has recently been issued three OSHA safety citations, along with a $63,910 fine, for allegedly subjecting workers to trench hazards.
According to OSHA, the contractor – VKR Enterprises, doing business as Mr. Rooter of Cook County – has been issued five OSHA citations within the past three years for trench-related safety violations. Among the various violations the contractor is alleged to have committed include:
- Failing to provide cave-in protections for trench workers
- Failing to provide safe egress, as well as a safe means of exiting trenches for workers
- Failing to provide trench workers with safety helmets.
Commenting on this enforcement action, OSHA Area Director Angeline Loftus stated:
An unprotected trench can bury a worker in seconds and cause severe or fatal injuries…Last year, a Mr. Rooter employee escaped serious injury in a trench collapse in Niles. It is inexcusable that this employer continues to expose workers to dangerous conditions. The company knows that every trench deeper than 5 feet must have cave-in protection.
Background OSHA’s General Rules for Excavation & Trenching Safety
While OSHA has a number of regulations pertaining to excavation and trench safety, some of the general rules are as follows:
- Soil and other materials must be kept at least 2 feet away from trench edges.
- Heavy equipment must be kept away from the edges of trenches.
- Trenches should be inspected at the beginning of each shift, as well as following any water intrusion (such as rain).
- Trench workers should wear safety helmets and, if trenches are by traffic, highly visible clothing.
To see a copy of OSHA’s citations, including one willful and two repeat citations, to VKR Enterprises, click here.
At this point, VKR Enterprises only has a matter of days to respond to OSHA’s enforcement action. The options for response include complying with the penalties, requesting a hearing with local OSHA officials or filing a formal appeal to contest the findings.
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