\Huntsville-based Don Kennedy and Sons House Moving Company faces a federal fine of $122,400 for four trenching violations.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it received a complaint from a whistleblower who said he was fired because he refused to get into an unprotected trench. OSHA says he and other workers were doing foundation repairs at 1200 Shadow Ridge Drive in Huntsville.
OSHA cited Don Kennedy and Sons for two serious violations of exposing employees to fall and crushing hazards by making them ride in the bucket of a backhoe to get in and out of a trench. OSHA also accuses the company of exposing workers to hazards of getting hit by loose soil, rocks and equipment by not having them wear head protection.
OSHA cited Don Kennedy and Sons for two willful violations of failing to provide safe entrance and exit from an excavation and not providing cave-in protection for workers who are in a 15-foot deep trench.
“We plan to fight every single one of these citations,” Lisa Kennedy, wife of owner Jeff Kennedy, told WHNT News 19. “These claims are from a disgruntled, former employee and are false. We treat our employees with respect and don’t intentionally put them in danger.”
A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The citations carry $112,000 in penalties. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry $10,400 in proposed penalties.
“This employer knowingly put workers at risk of serious injury or death by ordering them back to work in an unprotected trench after experiencing a cave-in,” said Lisa Strunk, OSHA’s acting area director in Birmingham. “Risking the safety of workers is not an acceptable business decision.”
“We have been doing business for 70 years and never had one of our employees seriously injured or hurt,” Lisa Kennedy told WHNT News 19. “This has got to be some misunderstanding. We are going to fight it.”
Don Kennedy and Sons has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Birmingham or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Birmingham Area Office at 205-731-1564. You can also visit OSHA’s website.