The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said yesterday it plans to fine a Texas contractor $231,400, a record for a construction company, in connection with the death of a worker when a trench caved in on him last March.
OSHA accused ABC Utilities Services Inc. of Fort Worth of 28 safety violations, including 23 described as willful disregard for the law or the safety of its workers.
Frank White, a deputy assistant labor secretary, said the agency plans to levy the maximum penalty possible because the company had consistently ignored federal regulations requiring that trenches be shored to prevent cave-ins, one of the most frequent causes of deaths in the construction industry.
ABC Utilities has been cited by OSHA for similar violations in connection with the death of another worker in 1983 and again upon inspection of a job site in 1985.
The latest case stems from an accident March 23 at Azle, Tex., when a unshored trench 10 feet deep and 30 inches wide caved in on Marcos Chaivez Ulna, one of eight ABC workers installing a water main, OSHA officials said.
Frank Wolfe, owner of ABC Utilities, said, "I'm just shocked. I naturally expected something from OSHA from this situation, but I'm just shocked at the size of the fine proposed . . . . We've been in business since 1950, and this was the second fatality we've had in 37 years."
"We definitely will contest the fines and the allegations that there was a willful violation of regulations," Wolfe said. The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The largest previous fine of a builder was $105,100 against Research-Cottrell Inc. in 1978.