Company cited for ‘failure to protect workers’ following Emery trench collapse

Company cited for ‘failure to protect workers’ following Emery trench collapse

EMERY — A Fort Pierre-based company was cited by the U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a man was injured in an Emery trench collapse.

The $95,064 penalty announced Friday for two repeat violations and one serious safety violation is the result of a May 23 incident in which a 34-year-old man was buried when the walls of a 14-foot trench collapsed around him. The work was part of a $4 million sanitary sewer and water line replacement project in Emery.

OSHA investigators determined that First Dakota Enterprises, Inc., did not use a trench protective system or conduct regular site inspections to correct hazardous conditions, “failing to protect its workers from trench collapse hazards,” according to a press release.

Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than five feet.

The man, who was not identified by law enforcement, was buried by dirt and debris leaving only his hand uncovered. Approximately eight men from the company and one emergency medical technician cleared his head in approximately five minutes, and additional first responders spent 30 minutes unearthing him.

He was then transported by helicopter to a Sioux Falls hospital for treatment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees, the press release said.

In trenching investigations, OSHA is looking to ensure the proper safety equipment is used, the trenches are inspected daily by a “competent person,” safe access and egress and other general safety standards are met, according to the organization’s website.

“Trench collapses are preventable,” said OSHA Sioux Falls Area Director Sheila Stanley. “It is critical that employers involved in excavation work review their safety procedures to ensure that employees are properly protected and trained. Had it not been for the heroic actions of these co-workers, this dangerous collapse may have ended in tragedy.”

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