OSHA cited an Ohio company after a 33-year-old employee was crushed to death in June 2016 as he was digging soil out of the 12-foot trench in Washington Township, when the trench walls around him collapsed – burying him in thousands of pounds of dirt. Rescue workers recovered his body a few hours later.
He is one of 23 workers killed, and 12 others who reported injuries in trench collapses in 2016. Trench collapses are rarely survivable. One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs. – the weight of a small automobile – giving a worker in a trench little chance of survival when walls of soil collapse.
“Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year – an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know.”
An investigation by OSHA found his employer, KRW Plumbing LLC of Jamestown, Ohio, did not provide trench cave-in protection for its employees. OSHA cited the company for two willful and two serious safety violations on Nov. 8, 2016, after the agency completed its investigation into the June 15, 2016, death and a subsequent investigation opened in October 2016.
The employee was part of a crew installing a sewer line at a residential home under construction in the 400 block of Claxton Glen Court. OSHA’s investigation found earlier that same day, a portion of the trench had collapsed and the worker was able to escape.
OSHA inspectors also learned the same worker was involved in a trench collapse about a month earlier at another construction site, because trench cave-in protection was not provided, leading OSHA to open a separate investigation in October 2016.
“This man’s life could have been saved by following OSHA’s safety standards that require cave-in protection in a trench more than 5-feet deep,” said Ken Montgomery, OSHA’s area director in Cincinnati. “Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions – including installing trench boxes, shoring and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse. Soil and other materials must also be kept at least two feet from the edge of trench to prevent the spoils from falling back into the open trench.”
While investigating the fatality OSHA found KRW Plumbing:
– Did not provide trench cave-in protection.
– Failed to protect workers from excavated material failing or rolling into a trench or failing from inside the trench walls.
– Failed to trained workers in recognizing trench hazards.
Proposed penalties for KRW Plumbing LLC of Jamestown, Ohio - Total $274,359.
OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.
KRW Plumbing has 15 business days from receipt of its 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.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Cincinnati office at 513-841-4132. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.