Texas Trench Collapse Results in $400k OSHA Fine and 16 Safety Violations

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Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, an advocate for workers from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. In it, he writes about a high fine that was levied against a Texas construction company by OSHA after a trench collapse.

OSHA is active investigating companies in Nebraska, too. Just last week, OSHA cited Endicott Clay Products in Endicott, Nebraska, “after a 41-year-old worker was fatally crushed in a machine on June 16, 2015.” Three serious safety violations were cited, regarding in proposed penalties to the company of $15,300. There were missing or inadequate safety guards, along with fall hazards present. “The worker was crushed by a brick setting machine when it operated as he was retrieving bricks that had been drying in the kiln,” according to a news release from OSHA.

Although these OSHA investigations and fines aren’t a huge deterrent, even when it’s a fine as in the article below, the efforts at least hold the offending business somewhat accountable to know that they need to examine their safety structures. And safety includes at least three things: well-maintained equipment that is appropriate for the job, training on how to use that equipment to be safe, and a company culture that encourages employees to consider safety and also ask for changes or help if they can’t do their jobs in a safe manner. Have a safe and productive day.

On July 22, 2015, Hassell Construction Co. was cited by OSHA for 16 safety violations (including 6 egregious willful violations) and given a whopping $423,900 fine. Hassell Construction Co. is a construction company based in Richmond, Texas with about 150 employees that construct water and sewer lines around Houston, Texas. The employer was given 15 business days to comply with each citation, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Houston South area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the OSHA Health Review Commission.

These citations were given after a trench that was 8 feet below the ground collapsed in February crushing an unsuspecting employee. Luckily, the worker was dug out by his co-workers using their bare hands. The minute the worker was freed from the trench, the trench collapsed a second time.

According to OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas, John Hermanson, “Hassell Construction knew its trenches weren’t safe, but still put its workers in harm’s way.” Due to the fact that trench cave-ins such as the one in February are completely preventable OSHA has also placed the construction company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program which often inspects employers and mandates follow-up inspections to ensure that they are complying with the law. In North Carolina, a similar incident allowed the employee to sue the employer directly and overcome the exclusivity provision of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Woodson v. Rowland. 373 S.E.2d 674 (1988).

Read about the citations here: https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/HassellConstruction_1031127_0722_15.pdf

Original Article 7/22/15 posted on WorkersCompensation.com.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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