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MIOSHA Cites Maco Concrete for Willful and Serious Violations in Fatal Trench Collapse and Proposes $103,600 in Penalties
December 18, 2006 - Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth (DLEG) Director Robert W. Swanson today announced the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has cited Maco Concrete, Inc., of St. Clair Shores, with $103,600 in proposed penalties for allegedly failing to adequately protect employees from trenching and excavation hazards.
"This employer exposed his employees to trenching hazards which led to the death of one worker," said Swanson. "This tragic workplace fatality could have been avoided. We are sending a clear message to all construction employers that they must be proactive and consistently protect their workers against cave-ins."
Excavation protection is essential, since the sides of a trench can collapse with great force and without warning, burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape. To ensure worker safety at excavations more than five feet deep, walls must be sloped or shored, or trench shields or boxes must be used, to prevent serious injuries or fatalities.
On April 23, 2006, Maco Concrete owner Aldo Magnante was operating a backhoe and directing the excavation for a new sewer line in Addison Township. Two employees were laying sewer pipe in an unprotected excavation approximately eight feet deep and four and half feet wide. The sides of the excavation were nearly vertical.
As Magnante was digging the trench, he placed the spoils along the north edge of the excavation. Prior to the fatal collapse, two employees were in the trench when soil broke loose from the north side and they had to run toward the east end of the excavation to avoid being buried by a cave-in.
Magnante removed the sloughed soil from the excavation, again placing it along the north edge. He then directed the employees to go back into the trench to finish the work. Approximately 10 minutes after the employees resumed working, they were buried by another collapse of soil from the north side of the excavation. One employee, Jeffrey Padot was completely buried and died, and the other employee was seriously injured.
The MIOSHA inspection found that a trench collapse occurred a few weeks prior to the fatal accident. Maco concrete was installing a basement emergency window on Little Mack Rd., in Macomb County. The excavation was approximately eight feet deep and nearly vertical. Magnante and Padot entered the excavation to install forms for footings. The excavation collapsed, partially burying the men. They escaped because the top man saw the side of the excavation failing and warned them of the collapse.
The MIOSHA investigation revealed that Maco Concrete knew of the substantial risk of injury to employees engaged in trenching work, and failed to provide trenching support to prevent injury to their workers. The owner was at the job site and made no effort to protect his employees. Additionally, the company failed to furnish Padot a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
"Construction is a high hazard industry. With only about 4 percent of the workforce, construction accounts for more than 40 percent of the worker deaths each year," said MIOSHA Acting Director Martha B. Yoder. "In a competitive and time driven industry, it is just not acceptable to cut corners at the expense of worker safety."
Trench sloping and support systems are required by the MIOSHA Construction Safety Standard, Part 9, Excavation, Trenching, and Shoring. This standard covers the digging of excavations and trenches that an employee is required to enter, and the supporting systems used on construction operations. Part 9 also requires a trained and experienced "qualified person" to evaluate excavation hazards.
The company received a combined total of three alleged willful violations with a proposed penalty of $99,400; and two alleged serious violations with a proposed penalty of $4,200, for a total proposed penalty of $103,600.
Inspection - #307766014 - Summary of Violations
A willful violation represents an intentional disregard of the requirements of MIOSHA regulations, or plain indifference to employee safety and health. A serious violation exists where there is a substantial probability that serious physical harm or death can result to an employee.
Based on provisions in the MIOSHA Act, Public Act 154, as amended, every willful violation, which is connected to a fatality, is referred to the Michigan Attorney General's Office for criminal investigation and/or prosecution.
"Employers have a responsibility to ensure the physical safety of their workers. When an employer fails to follow the law and our state's safety regulations, there must be consequences," said Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.
Because of the recognized higher hazards in excavation and trenching, these work operations are a focus in the MIOSHA five-year strategic plan. MIOSHA is coordinating an awareness campaign to remind employers that employee training is required - and to provide training opportunities through the Consultation Education & Training (CET) Division.
Companies can contact the CET Division at 517.322.1809 for construction consultation, education and training services. For more information on MIOSHA standards and excavation and trenching hazards, companies can contact the Construction Safety and Health (CSH) Division at 517.322.1856.
Under the MIOSH Act, the company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply or contest the violations and penalties.
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