R. WILLIAMS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, Petitioner, v. OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY 7 HEALTH REVIEW COMMISSION; Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor, Respondents, No. 04-74247, Decided: October 3, 2006. This case proceeding arises under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. Section 651-678: hereafter called the “Act”). The respondent, R. Williams Construction Company (Williams), maintained a place of business at the Chumash Casino Project, Santa Ynez, California, where it was engaged in sewer construction. Williams is an employer engaged in a business affecting commerce and is subject to the requirements of the Act. On September 19, 2002, a Williams’s employee, Jose Aguiniga, was killed in a trench cave-in at Williams's Santa Ynez work site. After being notified of the fatality, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) initiated an inspection. As a result of that inspection, Williams was issued citations alleging violations of the Act. By filing a timely notice of contest Williams brought this proceeding before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). On January 28-29, 2004 a hearing was held in Santa Barbara, California (Case brief, No. 04-74247, 2006).
On the morning of September 19, 2002, a trench collapse at a sewer construction project at the Churnash Casino Project in Santa Ynez, California. A Williams' employee, Jose Aguiniga, was killed and seriously injured another Williams' employee, Adam Palomar. On the day of the collapse, the trench was ten to twelve feet deep and between three and four feet wide on the bottom. The workers only access to and egress from the bottom west end of the trench. Water seeped continuously into the trench soil. Aguiniga and Palomar were generally responsible for cleaning the pumps used for removing the water from the excavation. The two men would enter the trench; one would pick up the pump and the other would clean the debris out of the bottom. The pumps could be pulled up and cleaned from the top of the trench; it was the practice to clean out the buckets, or wells, where the pumps sat. This could only be done from inside the trench. It was not uncommon for the pumps to be cleaned up to ten times a day. Palomar and Aguiniga worked in the trench for about 15 minutes; as they were on their way out, the trench collapsed, killing Aguiniga and severely injuring Palomar (Case brief, 2006). The functions of OSHA are:
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH ACT) is the principal federal law requiring private sector employees to keep their workplaces free from hazards that threaten the safety and health of employees. Three new agencies were created when the OSH Act was enacted; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) – and the National Institute Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). OSHA has overall responsibility for administering and enforcing the OSH Act. The OSHRC is independent from OSHA and hears appeals of its enforcement actions. (Walsh, 2010, p. 479, para. 2) What was the legal issue in this case? A case regarding the government agency rules and regulations verses the practices of a construction company. OSHA is a government regulated organization that was created to ensure the safety of employees while on the job. The regulations of OSHA have been put in place to eliminate and reduce the number of on-the-job injuries and/or deaths. The legal issue of this case is whether or not the court should hold Williams Construction Company responsible for specific violations of OSHA standard regulations. R. Williams Construction Company was cited by OSHA with four safety violation:
• The failure to instruct its employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and in the regulation applicable to their work environment
• The failure to ensure that no worker would have to travel more than 25 feet