Colorado Contractors Cited for Trenching Hazards

March 18, 2014

OSHA cited Reconstruction Experts Inc. for three safety violations, including one willful. Chivas Contractors was also cited for three serious safety violations during the November 2013 complaint inspection of an unsafe trenching work site in Aurora, Colo. The combined proposed penalties total $81,400.

Reconstruction Experts solicited help from framing subcontractor Chivas Contractors, to locate a damaged water pipe for an apartment complex that was being renovated. Workers dug a trench that exceeded 11 feet in depth without the use of a cave-in protective system.

"Employers continue to expose workers to trenching hazards that can end a life in a matter of seconds when a trench caves in. OSHA will not tolerate such disregard for worker safety," said David Nelson, OSHA's area director in Greenwood Village. "During the last 20 years, OSHA has provided a number of resources for employers to eliminate trenching hazards."

The willful violation for Reconstruction Experts, with a penalty of $63,000, was cited for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench that exceeded 5 feet in depth. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The two serious violations, with a penalty of $10,800, were cited for failing to provide a fall protection system for workers leaning over the edge of the trench while hoisting up excavated material from the bottom of the trench and for failing to provide an access ladder that extended 3 feet above the landing surface. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Chivas Contractors was cited for three serious safety violations, with a penalty of $7,600, for similar failures to provide a cave-in protective system and a fall protection system for workers leaning over the edge of a trench.

Reconstruction Experts in Arvada, Colo., is a general contractor employing about 180 workers. It provides renovation and remodeling services for properties in Colorado, California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Wyoming. Chivas Contractors in Aurora is a framing contractor employing about 10 workers. The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.