- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Illinois contractor Kellenberger Plumbing & Underground $59,290 and issued the company citations for trench-related safety violations.
- The agency began its investigation when someone complained about two Kellenberger employees who were removing a sewer line in a trench more than 8-feet deep on a construction site in Naperville, IL.
- OSHA cited Kellenberger for one willful and one serious safety violation for failing to provide cave-in protection and failing to have someone available to move employees from dangerous work areas if necessary.
Kellenberger has been cited for trenching violations three times since 2012, according to Kathy Webb, OSHA Calumet City Area Office area director. "An unprotected trench can bury a worker under thousands of pounds of soil in seconds and cause severe or fatal injuries… The company knows that every trench deeper than 5 feet must have cave-in protection. They are putting their employees in serious danger by ignoring federal safety standards," she said in a press release.
The initial investigation into Kellenberger, the agency said, was part of OSHA’s National Emphasis program on trenching and excavation. According to OSHA's website, because unsafe trench and excavation conditions continue to be a problem, OSHA decided to make a concerted effort to increase inspections at sites where active trenching and excavation operations are occurring.
As a result of OSHA's increased focus on trench safety, the agency cited Alabama contractor Stephens Plumbing, Inc. last month for one willful and four serious excavation and trenching safety violations and fined the company $43,800. According to OSHA, Stephens allowed its employees to work in trenches without the required protections like trench boxes or shoring.
In another case in February, OSHA cited Texas contractor Hurtado Construction for allowing employees to work in trenches that had accumulations of water, as well as for failing to provide a safe means of leaving a trench and failing to provide adequate cave-in protection. OSHA fined the company $86,240.