Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Business

Company fined over ditch collapse in Clearwater

LARGO — Caladesi Construction Co. has been cited and fined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations that caused a cave-in at a construction site in Clearwater in August.

The Largo company was performing a storm drain maintenance project for the city of Clearwater on Aug. 14 near 1552 Jeffords St. when the walls of a trench collapsed.

It took three hours for rescue workers to lift a 57-year-old worker out of the hole, which had filled with mud. The rescue team battled severe heat throughout the effort, kept the victim on oxygen and continuously monitored his blood pressure. At the time, it was determined that the man did not receive any injuries during the cave-in.

OSHA's investigative report stated that although Caladesi had a "competent person'' to inspect work sites, that person "was not given the authority to make changes or stop work when trenching or excavation hazards were identified.''

OSHA also determined that Caladesi employees were exposed to "inadequately shored excavation walls because metal plates that were driven into the ground were not supported and had shifted in toward the work area.''

And finally, the agency determined that a dangerous situation had developed because a trench box had been broken apart without "... manufacturer or engineer approval and the side shields were being held in place by I-beams.''

Calling the violations "serious," OSHA proposed fines of $11,550. The fines were decreased to $6,930 after a settlement meeting.

Though the settlement was in October, the Times only recently obtained records in the case.

In an email, D. Wayne Wyatt, director of site development field operations for Caladesi Construction, wrote that "… assuring employee health, safety and welfare are of the utmost importance.''

Wyatt added that the inspection and subsequent citations led to a full review of company safety operations and that "advanced checks and balances are now in place."

Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.

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