Fines possible in ditch collapse
A construction company is facing fines in connection with an accident that pinned a worker at the bottom of an 8-foot ditch in September.
According to investigators for CalOSHA, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Manuel Pacheco was working in the bottom of an unsupported ditch on Glenwood Way near Pioneer Trail when part of a side wall caved in, trapping his foot and lower leg.
Ford Construction, out of Sparks, Nev., first told CalOSHA investigators that Pacheco, 40, was standing on the lip of the ditch when the wall caved in carrying him down to the bottom. CalOSHA regulations require that any trench 5 feet or deeper must be shored – or supported by props – if workers will be inside the trench.
A CalOSHA representative said that after talking with witnesses and Pacheco, he determined Pacheco was actually working in the ditch at the time of the accident – not taken down by a crumbling sidewall. Pacheco suffered a dislocated knee and ligament damage in the accident, investigators said.
Ford Construction was hired by the city to complete curb and gutter work in the east end of town. The company was digging to set sediment traps, which can be done without workers entering the trench. On Sept. 28, the digging resulted in a broken pipeline and Pacheco entering the unstable trench. Investigators said there also wasn’t a pump on site to remove the standing water from the bottom of the ditch.
Steve Kooyman, associate civil engineer for South Lake Tahoe and supervisor of the project, said the majority of the work was completed in the 1998 construction season, but Ford will have to return next year to tie in some residents’ driveways. Kooyman said all the necessary CalOSHA safety regulations were incorporated in the city’s contract with Ford.
“Ford was also working on the pipeline for STPUD along State Route 89. The majority of that job required shoring. They should have known better,” Kooyman said in reference to the Glenwood Way site.
Kooyman said he can also shut down a construction site for safety violations when he finds them.
“I could go out to a site and hold hands for two hours, but as soon as I leave, they could break regulations,” Kooyman said. “You have to hope they’re going to be honest.”
A CalOSHA representative said the agency was also contemplating other citations against Ford Construction for willful violations of other safety regulations on the Glenwood Way job site. Fines start around $600, but if a “willful” violation is found that number can be multiplied by 10.
Ford can appeal the citation to the CalOHSA appeals board.
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