By Justin Boron
A Hampton-based construction company - which won a bid for a future Clayton County Water Authority project - has been cited repeatedly for exposing workers to potentially deadly hazards and could be fined as much as $89,200, according to officials at the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The labor agency began inspecting Don Hall Construction after a field agent passing by a work site outside of Forest Park noticed unsafe conditions, said Harold Gill, the assistant area director at OSHA's Atlanta-west office. The investigation resulted in several proposed penalties for showing an “intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the OSHA act and requirements,” an OSHA news release says.
Hall said the company plans to challenge the citations and was agitated that the allegations were made public before the company had a chance to respond.
“Until we have been tried and convicted, it's really none of your business,” he said. “Any idiot can come out and write a citation and make things on paper look bad.
“It's none of your business. It's none of the public's business.”
Gill said the company has until Nov. 28 to contest the penalties before an independent review board or through an informal meeting. Responding to Hall's characterization of inspectors, Gill said OSHA inspectors issue citations based on standards and regulations.
“That's his opinion,” he said. “We look at what's there and write citations based on what we see.”
At the time of the inspections, Don Hall Construction was not doing work for the county water authority, said Suzanne Brown, the authority's public information officer.
But Wade Brannan, the water retailer's general manager, said the company has done construction work for the utility in the past.
It also recently entered a low bid of $124,518 for a sewer line project along Forest Parkway in the northeast part of the county, Brown said. She said the water authority will only pay 25 percent of the job while a developer will pay the remainder.
Brannan said “usually (Hall's) construction methods and practices are excellent.” He said he expected the company to make the necessary safety changes.
He also said the water authority has inspectors on the construction sites to ensure that contractors use appropriate safety measures.
On June 8, OSHA began an inspection of a job site unrelated to the water authority where soil was being excavated from under the highway to install a sewer drain line. Gill said the company failed to provide adequate safety equipment for the 11-foot deep trench, leaving employees at risk of being buried alive if the trench wall collapsed. The work safety agency slapped the company with a proposed penalty of $56,000 for the violation.
The agency also has proposed a $27,200 penalty for four repeat citations of failing to provide workers with hard hats and a safe means of entering and exiting the trench, and failing to assure that material was safely excavated and placed a safe distance from the trench edge.
OSHA proposed an additional $6,000 for Donald Hall Construction's use of defective ladders and failing to properly install trench shields.
Trenches, Gill said, have become a national emphasis for OSHA because of the increasing number of death's caused when the dirt walls collapse. He said the Atlanta-West office, which handles Fulton, Cobb, and Clayton counties, stops at least 25 unsafe trenches a year.