- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Ohio-based JK Excavating & Utilities with serious, willful, repeat and other-than-serious violations after evaluating a fatal December 2017 trench accident on one of the company's project sites. The agency proposed a $202,201 fine and placed JK in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
- JK employee Zachary Hess, according to Equipment World, was in a 16-foot-deep-trench working on a sewer tap-in when the trench collapsed, killing Hess. The citations issued by OSHA indicate that investigators found employees were working in trenches without cave-in protection and that JK did not remove accumulating water, use entry and egress ladders properly, keep employees from working under a suspended trench box, make workers wear hard hats or have a plan for swift medical attention.
- OSHA Cincinnati Area Office Director Ken Montgomery said in the agency's press statement the cave-in could have been prevented if JK had taken the appropriate safety measures. JK has 15 days from the receipt of OSHA's citations to comply with or contest the agency's findings or to request an informal conference.
Despite widespread recognition that trenching and excavation operations can be extremely dangerous — and deadly — without the proper safeguards, some construction companies continue to flout the rules and put their employees at risk.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of trench and excavation fatalities are climbing. The bureau reported in March that the number of these types of deadly incidents in 2016 was near twice the average of the previous five years combined. After the release of this report, the Labor Department set a goal of reducing fatalities by 10% through more OSHA inspections and compliance assistance to excavation and trenching contractors.
But there doesn't have to be a death or injury on the record for OSHA to come down hard on violators.
In April, the agency cited Michigan-based Kamphuis Pipeline Company with safety violations related to a project in North Dakota and fined the contractor a whopping $454,750. OSHA said workers were installing water-metering pits and lines in hazardous conditions and that Kamphuis put its employees at risk by failing to correct jobsite hazards, protect workers from struck-by hazards, establish excavated soil piles a safe distance from trench edges and implement adequate trench protective systems. According to OSHA, those violations are still under contest.