OSHA comes down hard on contractor for trench violations

June 30, 2017

Just a month after a worker died while working in an unprotected trench, OSHA inspectors found another employee of the same Missouri plumbing contractor working in an unprotected trench at another jobsite. OSHA inspectors found that, in both cases, the contractor failed to provide basic safeguards to prevent trench collapse and did not train employees to recognize and avoid cave-ins and other risks.

Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry. In 2016, OSHA received reports of 23 deaths and 12 injuries nationwide in trench and excavation operations. In the first 5 months of 2017, 15 deaths and 19 injuries were reported nationwide.

In response to this recent case, OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille stated, “We call on all employers involved in excavation work to review their safety procedures, and to ensure that all workers are properly protected and trained on the job.”

OSHA first opened an investigation into the contractor’s work practices after a 33-year-old employee died in December 2016 when a 12-foot-trench collapsed. A second investigation began about 1 month later at a Kansas City site where inspectors found employees of the same contractor working in an unprotected trench. No employees were injured in that incident. Overall, OSHA cited the company for six willful violations and eight serious violations, and proposed $714,142 in penalties.

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