- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Wednesday cited a Boise, ID, contractor for willful and serious violations related to its trenching operations, according to the Idaho Statesman, and proposed a fine of $106,470.
- OSHA said its investigators inspected Alta Construction's site at a $65 million development in downtown Boise after receiving two complaints about the company's safety practices. Inspectors reported that they found workers in 7-foot-deep trenches with no cave-in protection, ladders, ramps, stairs or any other safe means of egress.
- The crackdown comes after a deadly city trench collapse last year. Alta has already scheduled an informal conference with the agency and could appeal the citation and fine.
Trenching is one of the most dangerous activities in which construction workers can engage, and the industry saw a two-fold increase in fatal trench-related accidents during 2016. One cubic yard of dirt is enough to crush anyone, as it can weigh up to 3,000 pounds.
In fact, it was a deadly trench accident that gave Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance the inspiration to form a construction fraud task force that now investigates and prosecutes safety violations and incidents of construction fraud in New York City.
In April 2015, 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo was killed on a Manhattan job site when a trench collapsed onto where he was working. Vance's office won a conviction for criminally negligent homicide against general contractor Harco Construction, but Harco ended up paying only a fine of $10,000 after refusing to comply with the judge's original order that the company pay for public safety ads.
Moncayo's employer, Sky Materials Corporation, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and the court also imposed a $10,000 fine against the company. Sky jobsite foreman Wilmer Cueva was sentenced to prison for one to three years. Harco's supervisor on the project was sentenced to community service and probation.
In August, OSHA cited and fined a South Dakota contractor more than $95,000 for a trench collapse that could have killed a worker had it not been for the quick reaction of the rest of the crew. When the walls of a 14-foot trench gave way, workers were able to clear enough dirt and debris to allow the victim to breathe while other extricated him from the hole.