The spring of 2019 saw 3 trench collapse deaths in a span of 10 days. One at a home construction site in Colorado, another during a culvert install in Marysville, Ohio, and a third at a residential site in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio. The latter has recently received a hefty fine and penalty from OSHA.
On Saturday, April 6, news reports rolled in about a man, who working alone on a residential construction site in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio (near Dayton), being killed by a trench collapse. After completing their investigation, OSHA has handed down $145,860 in fines to the employer and placed them on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The man’s employer, a plumbing contractor, has faced OSHA violations for trench related hazards before, OSHA explained in a press release, and more specifically in 2017 and 2018. As a result, the company faced repeat violations for failing to properly inspect the trench before allowing the employees to enter and failing to install adequate protective devices to prevent a collapse.
In addition to the two repeat violations, the company was also given an “other-than-serious” violation for failing to provide a copy of the tabulated data approved by a registered professional engineer for the shoring system. That violation, however, did not result in a monetary penalty.
“Tragedies such as this are preventable when employers comply with safety standards that exist to protect workers from trenching hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery, in Cincinnati, Ohio. “OSHA regulations require employers to slope, shore, or shield trench walls to prevent cave-ins.”
As part of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, the contractor will be subject to mandatory follow-up inspections and additional scrutiny from state and federal enforcement branches.
As a reminder, OSHA identified trenching and excavation hazard reduction as their priority goal in 2018. As part of that program, they updated their National Emphasis Program which reignited OSHA’s enforcement campaign of trenching hazards in October of 2018.