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Breese contractor, OSHA come to settlement in recent trench cave-in protection case

 The headquarters for the U.S. Department of Labor is shown behind the building's sign.
Ed Brown
Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

A Breese, Illinois, contractor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, have come to a settlement in connection with a case involving trench cave-in protection rules.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, Groundworks Contracting Inc. of Breese was cited for not adhering to a city engineer’s instructions to use trench cave-in protection.

OSHA cited Groundworks Contracting for multiple violations and proposed penalties of $77,147, the release stated.

During an appeal hearing Wednesday, June 14, those penalties were reduced to $41,185, Scott Allen, regional director for media relations and public affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor in Illinois, confirmed.

I can confirm that OSHA did have a settlement with Groundworks,” he said. “They did reduce the penalty amount to $41,185 and put them on a payment plan.”

Additionally, a violation regarding yearly safety forms Groundworks was to fill out was dropped. Jason Richter, company owner, said they filled out the forms but got them to OSHA too late.

“They dropped that because we did actually get the forms to them,” he said.

In the process, Richter said the company created a new position to assist with safety measures moving forward. One of the company’s foreman — who has been with Groundworks two years — will serve as safety director.

“This is a new position we created specifically for safety, to have a safety program to help out with future work,” Richter said. “The reason we promoted him is he’s already certified in several safety certifications ... he’s already kind of there. I think having a safety director for the business alone with help out tremendously.”

All in all, Richter was pleased with the compromise.

“They had proof of some pictures. And we had proof of pictures of us doing things the right way,” he said. “Between both of us, we came to a compromise on how things need to be done moving forward. And we do not have any future restrictions. This closed the door on the case. They (OSHA) kind of worked with us because this was our first violation we’ve ever had in nine years of being in business.”

Richter has been the Groundworks owner all nine years and stressed safety is paramount to himself and the company.

“Safety is the key to our company. We just want to make sure everybody goes home safe at night to their families,” he said.

Garen Vartanian is a reporter and editor with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Garen Vartanian is a reporter and editor with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.