Witt Plumbing Fined $157K for Trench Collapse that Killed Worker

July 1, 2013

Witt Plumbing has been cited by OSHA for five safety violations after a worker died from injuries received when a trench collapsed at a job site in Hastings, Neb., Jan. 16. The worker was locating a sewage drain pipe at a home under construction when the unprotected trench collapsed.

"This tragedy might have been prevented with the use of protective shoring that the company planned to bring to the job site that afternoon. All too often, compromising safety procedures has tragic consequences, and hazards like these cause numerous deaths and injuries every year," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "No job should cost a worker's life because an employer failed to properly protect and train them."

OSHA deemed two violations as willful: failing to provide cave-in protection to workers in an unprotected trench more than 5 feet deep and to provide a means of egress from a trench. 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.

Additionally, three serious violations involve failing to train workers on trenching hazards, lack of a hazard communication program, and failing to have a competent person conduct trench and excavation inspections. 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.

Due to the nature of the hazards and the willful violations cited, Witt Plumbing has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA has proposed fines of $157,000 as a result of the incident.