Employer of two workers who died at job site linked to 27 previous OSHA violations

 

 

Tess Vrbin

 

 

Trench collapses at construction sites are rare, Starkville Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough told reporters after a collapse killed two workers at a housing development on Tuesday.

 

But safety risks tied to the head of Southern Civil Contracting, the construction company working at the multi-home development where the accident occurred, are much less rare. A long list of citations for safety violations from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration are linked to Shane Henderson, president and owner of the Tuscaloosa-based company.

 

Henderson was previously president of Gilco Contracting, also based in Tuscaloosa. Gilco accrued 27 OSHA citations from inspections of trenches at construction sites between 2005 and 2008, according to inspection records OSHA sent The Dispatch on Friday. Southern Civil had three similar citations in 2010, its first year of existence. In the past 10 years, however, OSHA has not cited the company.

 

 

Zachary Wayne Osbourn, 36, and William Kizzire, 19, both of Fayette County, Alabama, were killed Tuesday when a trench collapsed on them while they were laying pipe at the construction site on South Montgomery Street, just south of the Maison de Ville subdivision. Andy Fornea, owner of A.S. Fornea Construction out of Oxford, is the site's developer.

 

First responders arrived to find Osbourn dead, and they spent two and a half hours rescuing Kizzire from the rubble.

 

Kizzire died en route to the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo via helicopter.

 

A similar accident in the Tuscaloosa area in April 2006 pinned a Gilco employee underneath some equipment in an 18-foot trench after a soil collapse, and the employee's crushed arm was later amputated, according to the Birmingham Business Journal. Gilco received five OSHA citations for the accident: three for failing to meet specific excavation requirements, one for a safety training and education violation and one for failing to meet protective system requirements.

 

The safety training citation was later dropped, and two of the other violations were reclassified from "willful" to "repeat." Willful violations are "where an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the act or a plain indifference to employee safety and health," according to OSHA's Field Operations Manual.

 

Employers are cited for repeated violations if they have been cited in the past for "the same or a substantially similar condition or hazard." Gilco went out of business in 2013, but OSHA still considers an employer's past when issuing citations.

 

Gilco had more violations labeled serious than any other type, and the manual defines serious as "a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result." Gilco had 12 serious and nine repeated violations.

 

Tuesday's accident is still under investigation, so OSHA declined to comment on it. Henderson could not be reached for comment after multiple calls and voice messages from The Dispatch to the Southern Civil office.

 

 

'The most serious violative conditions'

 

Failure to meet specific excavation requirements and protective system requirements made up the vast majority of Gilco's violations, 17 out of 27.

 

The violations did not specifically state which requirements were not met, but specific excavation requirements include the prohibition of "exposure to falling loads," and protective systems during excavations must be able to withstand "all loads that are intended or could reasonably be expected to be applied or transmitted to the system," according to OSHA regulations.

 

All 17 violations were assigned a gravity of 10, the highest designation from OSHA based on both the severity and probability of potential illness or injury if an accident were to occur, according to the Field Operations Manual. Factors that determine probability include the number of employees exposed to hazardous conditions, the "frequency and duration of exposure," the employees' ages and proximity to the danger.

 

OSHA only assigns a designation of 10 to "the most serious violative conditions, such as those situations involving danger of death or extremely serious injury or illness," according to the manual. Five more of Gilco's citations were designated 10, including two rigging equipment violations and one "general duty" violation, meaning there was no specific standard that applied to the hazard.

 

Gilco was initially fined a total of $530,500 for the 27 citations, but OSHA reduced the fines to a total of $258,735, less than half, after the company contested the citations.

 

Southern Civil had two serious citations for specific excavation requirements and one for protective system requirements in 2010. One of the excavation requirements violations had a gravity designation of 5, or moderate severity and probability of an accident, but the other two violations were designated 10.

 

Southern Civil's fine was reduced from $1,050 to $788 after contesting the citations.

 

The inspection reports for both companies indicate they corrected the violations within the period assigned by OSHA, which imposes additional fines if the correction deadline is not met.

 

 

 

 

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