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Miss. contractor faces up to $117K in safety fines

JACKSON, Miss. -- Federal safety regulators have proposed $117,000 in fines against Brocato Construction Inc. of Batesville, Miss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that when it inspected a work site April 12, Brocato wasn't protecting workers against trench collapses or providing a ladder to enter and exit deep trenches.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse, typically with a shield or by sloping or benching the soil.

Trench cave-ins can maim or kill workers, and are a focus of OSHA enforcement. Brocato was cited for two willful violations and one serious violations, in citations dated Monday.

"The employer is aware of OSHA's safety standards with regard to excavation and trenching, but chose to put employees' lives at risk by having them work in an unprotected trench," Clyde Payne, OSHA's area director in Jackson, Miss., said in a Tuesday statement.

Agency spokesman Mike D'Aquino said no injuries were recorded in this case.

Brocato officials did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The company was relocating gas and water lines along Mississippi Highway 305 in Olive Branch, OSHA said. The company was cited separately for violations in two separate trenches.

Brocato can request an informal conference with OSHA officials. Fines are often lowered in such conferences. Brocato could also contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The agency's online database shows no previous violations for Brocato Construction.