OSHA Violations For Construction Company
MILWAUKEE - A company doing road construction when an explosion destroyed a church and injured seven people has a history of safety violations with the federal government.
Dorner Inc. has had nearly four dozen violations and paid more than $260,000 in fines since 1999, according to online records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"When you look at some of the violations they've had in the past, we do consider some of them significant," said Scott Allen, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA.
Dorner, based in Luxemburg, Wis., was using a backhoe in the area of natural gas lines near First Baptist Church in Oconomowoc, when workers smelled a heavy gas odor around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said. Utility workers were there within 10 minutes trying to fix the problem, he said.
The explosion happened about 1:30 p.m.
Authorities are still investigating the blast's cause. No one has placed blame on Dorner for anything.
Dorner's attorney Lance Grady said the company was fully cooperating with investigators and wouldn't comment until the investigation was done.
Manthey said the investigation prevented him from commenting when asked whether Diggers Hotline, which marks utility lines, was called, whether WE Energies or Diggers representatives marked the lines or whether they were marked properly. Messages left for Chad Krueger, a spokesman for Digger's Hotline, were not immediately returned Friday.
The blast, which shook the downtown area, destroyed a nearly century-old brick church, two nearby houses and injured seven people, including one of the seven Dorner workers on the scene. Preliminary estimates put the damage at $1 million, city spokesman Bob Duffy said in a news release.
Dorner started the $8.5 million project Friday after being the lowest bidder on a state sewer and road contract.
According to OSHA's online records, Dorner has had 16 "repeat" violations, 15 "serious" violations, two "willful" violations and five violations classified as "other" since 1999. The Web site has few specifics of the incidents, but does indicate whether there were fatalities. None were listed for Dorner.
"Repeat" violations are offenses a company has already been cited for and "willful" are violations they knew the rules for but violated anyway. Willful is considered more severe than "serious" violations, Allen said.
The Department of Labor won't say whether Dorner was in its enhanced enforcement program, for violators "non-responsive to safety and health concerns in their own work environment," department spokesman Bradley Mitchell said.
Companies in that program are subject to more surprise inspections and publicly disclosing who is on the list gives the companies notice, Mitchell said.
But a company is put in the program when it has had three or more willful or repeat violations in a three-year period, Allen said. Dorner has met that criteria on several occasions since 1999, according to the online records.
Repeat violations are subject to higher fines, Scott said. Willful violations, which are often repeat violations, can yield fines of up to $70,000, he said.
Since October 1999, the company has had 11 violations for not protecting employees adequately for cave-ins in excavations. It also was cited five times for not having a stairway, ladder, ramp or other safe means to get out of a trench.
Other repeat violations include:
--Employees being permitted under loads handled by lifting or digging equipment.
--Employees working in excavations in which there is accumulated water.
--Employees not protected from excavated or other materials or equipment that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling.
Dorner had six violations deleted as part of settlements: two repeats, one willful and three serious. Mitchell said that's not uncommon if companies agree to fix the problem. Fines were often significantly decreased as well, according to records.
"We're more concerned about getting hazards corrected than we are about any other issue," Mitchell said.
In 2003, the state Department of Justice settled an environmental lawsuit with Dorner. The company agreed to pay $33,750 in fines after allowing sediment-laden water to be discharged from a de-watering pit into Hill Creek. It had been hired by the Green Lake Sanitary District to install sanitary sewer lines.
Oconomowoc city spokesman Bob Duffy didn't return messages for comment Thursday or Friday. Wisconsin Department of Transportation Project Supervisor Dale Oldenburg wouldn't comment when reached Friday.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)