OSHA investigates city trench

August 24, 2011 • Local News, News

The New Mexico Occup[auth] ational Health and Safety Bureau is investigating the city of Roswell to determine if a trench that was recently dug inside city limits violated any state or federal safety regulations.

The investigation was launched Aug. 15, after an anonymous person told the bureau that the trench area looked unsafe. The person had seen a picture of the scene in the Aug. 11 edition of the Roswell Daily Record.

“An anonymous person … said that we should take a look,” Bob Geno-way, OHSB compliance manager, said by phone Tuesday. “It appeared that it might be unsafe.”

The photograph in the Daily Record showed two city employees wading knee-deep in water inside a trench at the intersection of Garden Avenue and Seventh Street on Aug. 10, working to fix a gasket attached to a 36-inch main water line that blew on Aug. 5.

“There was no one that was injured, and there was no collapse,” said Jim Winchester, communications director for the New Mexico Environment Department and the Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department.

Winchester could not go into detail about what might have been deemed unsafe since the investigation is ongoing, but said generally speaking, trenches must be built with proper support and siding along trench walls to ensure it will not collapse.
Winchester added that if the investigation concludes that the city was negligent, it is unclear whether the city would be required to pay a fine since there are varying degrees of penalties that are based on each specific incident.

It is not known how long the investigation will take.

The OHSB is a state regulatory agency that is part of the New Mexico Environment Department and has the responsibility of enforcing occupational health and safety regulations within New Mexico, in accordance with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and some state specific regulations.

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