Properly shoring trenches require a lot of extra room, time and money on job sites. Because of that, many contractors try to cut corners and skip the shoring, but doing so can have fatal consequences. We recently wrote about trench safety and a neat tool that makes it very easy, which you can find here.
Back in January of 2012, 36 year old day laborer, Raul Zapata, was installing a concrete foundation at a residential construction site in California. The 12 foot deep trench collapsed, burying him alive. Rescue workers could not get to the site quick enough and he died on the scene.
The fact that Zapata’s employer, US Sino Investment, ignored trench safety and ended up resulting in a death is a tragedy. Even more of a tragedy is the fact that just 3 days prior, a Milipitas, California building inspector had the site shut down due to improper shoring on the very save excavation. Not only did the employer fail to provide a safe work environment to begin with, it also ignored safety after they were called out by the building inspector. That’s negligence and it should never be tolerated.
Cal/OSHA, a division of Department of Industrial Relations, takes employer negligence very seriously, stating, “When our investigations uncover negligent behavior by employers, we exercise our full jurisdiction to protect workers – including referrals to district attorneys for prosecution."
During their investigation after the death, Cal/OSHA determined that, at the time of the accident:
- No employees were wearing head protection
- The excavation had not been properly shored
- The employer did not have a competent person on site to make sure shoring was correct
- The employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance
In total, US Sino Investment, was penalized $168,175 in citations. Last Friday, Cal/OSHA’s criminal investigation of US Sino Investment owner Richard Liu and Project Manager Dan Luo were responsible for the death and were sentenced to two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
It’s a sobering thought knowing that owners and project managers can be sentenced to prison for accidents on the job site, that’s why it’s so important to create a culture of safety within the entire company.
Cal/OSHA Criminal Investigation of Worker’s Death Results in Prison Term for Construction Company Owner and Project Manager | Department of Industrial Relations