Two contractors were fined for allowing employees to work in a 5-to-8-foot trench without cave-in protection. In addition, soil removed from the trench was piled at the trench’s edge, causing some material to fall back into the trench.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the contractors—Reyes Landscaping and TRD Contracting—for violations on July 8 on a job site in Warwick, Rhode Island. Inspectors found the following:
- A competent person – one with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct hazards – did not inspect the trench before starting work.
- The employees lacked helmets to protect against falling objects.
- Using an inadequate ladder to enter and exit the trench.
- Using an uninspected and unlabeled steel alloy chain sling to lift objects.
OSHA returned to the work site on July 13 and found that Reyes Landscaping had not corrected the hazards, continuing to expose its employees to cave-in and struck-by hazards in a trench 9 feet 6 inches deep. As a result, OSHA cited Reyes Landscaping for two willful and five serious violations, with $63,586 in proposed penalties for hazards observed on both dates.
Separately, the agency cited TRD Contracting for four serious violations, with $11,704 in penalties, for the July 8 hazards.
“An unprotected trench can be an early grave,” said Robert Sestito, OSHA area director, in a prepared statement. “While no collapse occurred in Warwick, the danger to these workers was real and imminent. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small car. For the safety and survival of their employees, employers must ensure that workers enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-ins and related hazards.”