September 6, 2016
LANSING, Ill. – For a Joliet construction contractor in business more than 50 years, the dangers of working in an unprotected trench should be nothing new. Yet, the company’s history of allowing employees to work in unsafe trenches continues – this time to excavate utility lines 7-feet deep in June 2016 at a Torrence Avenue job site.
Each year, dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injury when trench walls collapse and bury them in soil and rock – sometimes weighing several thousand pounds. With this grim reality in mind, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors issued one willful and two serious safety citations to the man’s employer, P.T. Ferro Construction Co. for putting workers at risk at the Lansing work site. The agency issued the citations on Aug. 30, 2016, and has proposed penalties of $104,756, following its inspection.
OSHA cited Ferro for allowing its employees to work in the trench without cave-in protection and a means to exit the trench quickly in a collapse. In addition, inspectors determined a competent person was aware of the hazardous conditions but still allowed the worker to enter the trench.
“Ground soil is an unpredictable aspect in all trenching and excavations. It gives no warning prior to giving away, and a collapse can bury workers in just seconds,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in Calumet City. “One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small automobile making it almost impossible to avoid tragedy. Inspection, use of protective systems and proper training can be the difference between life and death.”
This is seventh time since 1976 that OSHA has cited P.T. Ferro for allowing similar hazards to endanger workers. The agency also cited the company in 1990, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2010.
OSHA’s trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials remain at least two feet from the edge of trench.
View current citations here.
Established in 1964, P.T. Ferro is a Joliet-based construction contractor that has held contracts awarded by Illinois Department of Transportation, county and local governments, and the private sector. Its current projects include multi-million contracts in Joliet, Lockport/Romeoville, Crest Hill, New Lenox and Shorewood.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Calumet City Area Office at 708-891-3800.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.