Supervisor didn’t take measurements

by on December 8, 2011 · 2 Comments POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Based on the facts presented below, how do you think OSHA (or the courts) ruled?

“I think we’ll be OK with our challenge of that OSHA citation,” said Safety Director Juan Torres. “I thought we were in trouble because the OSHA inspector was the only one who took measurements of that trench.”

“Yeah, I got called away while the compliance officer was poking around here,” said Supervisor Bubba Smith. “But I figured that trench was less than five feet deep, so when he left, I had the hole filled back in.”

Re-bored hole
“Filling it in wasn’t ideal at that point considering an OSHA inspector was just here, but it was understandable,” said Juan. “I know you needed to keep going to finish the job up that day.”

“Still, I was really surprised when the OSHA inspector came back and told me he measured the trench at 6 1/2 feet near one of the edges,” said Bubba.

“Turns out the compliance officer was wrong,” said Juan. “We had our engineer bore a hole. He hit natural soil at less than five feet. So we’re taking this to OSHA’s court.”

Did the company get the OSHA citation dismissed?

No, the company lost and had to pay a $5,000 fine.

The OSHA Review Commission said that the company’s failure to take a measurement at the moment of the inspection cast doubt on their whole story.

Conditions too different later
Even though the company paid to have an engineer bore a hole to test the trench’s depth, there wasn’t evidence that the engineer conducted the boring in the exact same location as the 6 1/2-foot measurement taken by the compliance officer.

Plus, after the trench was filled in, the company may have re-graded the ground to a lower level and thus changed the depth of “natural soil,” the OSHA judges said.

The bottom line is that the more credible measurement was taken at the time of the inspection.

Take measurements on the spot
This case shows that a visual inspection isn’t enough – both the safety director and supervisor thought the trench was less than five feet deep, but couldn’t prove it. A competent person needs to take measurements (and measure for the deepest point).

The measuring tape will let you know when you must shore a trench. Measurements will also protect your workers against cave-ins, and document your work in case OSHA drops by. (Use a cell phone to take pictures.)

Cite: Secretary of Labor v. Pospiech Contracting, No. 07-1619, OSHRC.

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2 Comments on This Post

  1. Larry Schneider
    December 8, 2011 - 4:01 pm

    I am guessing the OSHA inspector would win on this.  I expect he/she took pictures of the measurements.

  2. Larry Schneider
    December 8, 2011 - 4:01 pm

    I am guessing the OSHA inspector would win on this.  I expect he/she took pictures of the measurements.

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