UK worker safety under review after violations

By Morgan Eads

[email protected]

University officials are reviewing policies and procedures surrounding construction projects after the launch of a state investigation into the safety of a campus worksite.

The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health investigation began after Kentucky Kernel reporters called the agency to ask about the safety of a trench being dug near the Grehan Journalism Building.

The trench violated several national and state OSHA standards, including a steep side slope, unearthed soil too near the mouth of the trench and a ladder that was too short.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet spokesman Daniel Lowry confirmed that the agency’s investigation began on Tuesday. Lowry said details would not be released until the investigation is complete.

Work began at the site to repair a blocked storm water line, UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Wednesday in an email. The work is projected to end Friday, depending on weather.

“An Environmental Health and Safety Division specialist inspected the worksite on Monday and recommended changes to the excavation to ensure the safety of the workers, as the original excavation was not done in a manner that met OSHA standards,” Blanton said in the email. “These deficiencies have since been corrected.”

Kernel editors saw workers widening the trench, moving the excavated earth and adding a taller ladder on Tuesday.

“Moreover, we are reviewing internally our policies and procedures to ensure moving forward that a standard protocol is in place to ensure that such work is performed appropriately on the front end of such a project,” Blanton said in the email. “The safety of everyone in our community — students, faculty, staff and visitors — is one of our top priorities.”

As of press time Wednesday, the trench was still open and the worksite was still active.

“When we see gaps in the processes and procedures necessary to help ensure that safety, we are committed to moving quickly to make the appropriate corrections,” Blanton said in the email. “That is what will be done here.”