Missouri contractors with $796,000 in OSHA fines

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A Blue Springs, Missouri contractor faces OSHA fines of $796,817 dig and other security breaches. The agency cited Arrow Plumbing and owner Rick Smith for four willful violations, one repeat violation, and seven serious violations of state safety standards.

The Missouri contractor put two workers at life-threatening risk of being buried by thousands of pounds of soil when they worked in an unprotected trench weakened by water accumulation at a dig site, the agency said.

Following an October 2021 inspection, OSHA cited Arrow Plumbing for two instances where workers were intentionally allowed to enter the trench without providing collapse protection, and for intentional citations for:

  • Allowing water to accumulate in the ditch, affecting the integrity of the excavation walls;
  • failure to keep piles of dirt at least 2 feet (ft) from the edge of the excavation;
  • allow workers to walk under suspended loads;
  • No provision of protective helmets;
  • improper use of ladders;
  • failure to train workers; and
  • Exposing Workers to Hazards Struck.

Arrow plumbing has a significant history of OSHA violations, according to the agency.

“Although Arrow Plumbing and owner Rick Smith agreed to implement a comprehensive trench safety program following a previous fatal trench collapse, employees were again found to be working in an unprotected trench,” Karena Lorek, OSHA’s Kansas City, Missouri area director, said in an agency statement. “This behavior is unacceptable and OSHA will do everything possible to hold Mr. Smith accountable for failing to protect his workers.”

Following a 2016 death inquest, Arrow agreed to honor the terms of a settlement agreement reached before the Occupational Safety and Health Audit Commission in 2018.

Under the agreement, the company was required to hire a safety consultant to design and implement a trench safety program and ensure employees complete OSHA construction, trenching and excavation training. However, Arrow Plumbing didn’t hire a security consultant until February 1, 2021, three years after it promised to do so. The agreement also required the company to pay $225,000 of previous fines in the form of 5 payments of $45,000 over 4 years. According to OSHA, Arrow has only made one payment to date.

In August 2020, OSHA again cited the company after discovering an employee working in another unprotected trench in Grain Valley, Missouri. The company has challenged the quotes.

“Arrow Plumbing’s and Rick Smith’s years of OSHA inspection experience and their agreement with OSHA appear to have had little impact on their day-to-day operations and their promise to implement OSHA and industry-recommended safety precautions,” Steven J. Kaplan, Deputy OSHA Administrator for Region 7 says. “All this despite knowing firsthand how deadly a ditch collapse can be.”

OSHA standards for trenching require protection systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials must be at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Ditches must also be inspected by a competent person, free of standing water and atmospheric hazards, and have a safe means of entry and exit before allowing a worker to enter.

The agency has a National Priority Program (NEP). excavations and excavationsand the National Utility Contractors Association has declared June 2022 Trench Safety Month. In addition, OSHA will partner with the association for Trench Safety Stand-Down Week, which will be held June 20-24.

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