A 2018 trench collapse in Colorado lead to the death of a construction worker named Rosario “Chayo” Martinez-Lopez. Now, his employer faces manslaughter charges for his death.
According to the OSHA citation, Martinez Lopez was working inside of an 8 foot deep trench to install a ¾” water line. As the man was working on his knees, the trench collapsed, causing him to suffer major head trauma and excessive blood loss.
The contractor received 14 different violations, 12 of which were “Serious,” 1 was listed as “other,” and the final was “Willful.” The Willful violation cost the company $25,867 and the standard cited was OSHA 29 CFR 1926.652 Requirements for protective systems.
A news release from OSHA from January 3, 2019 stated that “ContractOne Inc. willfully failed to use a trench protective system at a residential construction site where employees were installing water lines. The employer failed to conduct regular site inspections to correct potentially hazardous conditions; did not place excavated soil piles a safe distance from trench edges; failed to provide ladders for egress; and failed to utilize appropriate utility locate procedures during trenching operations. The company faces penalties of $57,463.”
The total fine amount was later negotiated down in a formal settlement.
Besides OSHA, the Post Independent reported that the local police department investigated the scene after the incident. The result of both investigations ended with a charge of manslaughter, a class 4 felony, for the owner of the company.
This is not the first time that an employer has faced criminal charges after a trench collapse death. In 2015, a construction company owner and project manager were sentenced for Involuntary Manslaughter. In 2016, a foreman was charged and convicted of Criminally Negligent Homicide and Reckless Endangerment following the death of a 22-year-old worker. In 2017, a project manager was sentenced to 6 months in county jail and 18-months of supervised release after an excavation collapse killed one of his employees.
Not only is OSHA taking trenching and excavation safety seriously, District Attorney’s all across the country are, as well. With all of the free resources currently available through OSHA or other reliable resources, there is really no excuse to ever put your employees in an unsafe trench.
Full Story: Employer charged with manslaughter in worker’s death at Colorado construction site | Post Independent