The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited and fined a South Dakota contractor in relation to a non-fatal May 2017 trench collapse.
OSHA alleges that Fort Pierre, SD–based First Dakota Enterprises did not provide adequate trench protection systems and did not conduct regular inspections of the 14-foot trench in question. The agency cited the company with one serious and two repeat safety violations and suggested a $95,064 fine.
Unlike many trench collapses, workers were able to clear enough debris from around the victim, allowing him to breathe as rescue crews extricated him from the dirt-filled trench.
OSHA makes a habit of cracking down on job site conditions that have the most potential to harm workers. Although falls kill more construction workers than any other type of construction-related accident, trench fatalities more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to OSHA. That's in large part due to the nature of trenches, as one cubic yard of dirt can weigh up to 3,000 pounds.
The uptick in trench cave-ins could be the result of a lack of worker training, corner-cutting on the part of contractors or their supervisors to meet a schedule, or a safety culture that neglects worker wellbeing, William Motherway, president of New York operations at insurance and risk management firm Conner Strong & Buckelew, told Construction Dive last month.
To raise the stakes for such negligence, officials have thrown the book at violators both criminally and through the assessment of huge penalties. In April, OSHA cited Massachusetts contractor Atlantic Drain Service Co. with 18 safety violations and fined the company $1,475,813 after two workers were killed in an October 2016 trench collapse. The company and its owner, Kevin Otto, were charged with two counts of manslaughter.
In April 2015, a trench collapsed at a project site in Manhattan, killing 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo. City prosecutors convicted general contractor Harco Construction of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter and fined the company $10,000. OSHA fined the company an additional $100,000. A foreman for Sky Materials, Moncayo's direct employer, was also sentenced to one to three years in prison.