A mere 20 minutes after an 8-foot deep trench collapsed, burying a 61-year-old Nebraska plumber under thousands of pounds of soil, emergency responders pronounced the man dead. Partially buried, his co-worker escaped the trench and frantically tried to rescue the man until help arrived.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found neither the men’s employer, nor project’s contractor provided trench cave-in protection for the workers as they installed sewer lines at a residential home project in the 2800 block of Toluca Street in Alliance on March 21, 2016.
Federal inspectors have cited both Clau Chin Construction LLC, the men’s employer, and Larry Kessler Construction LCC, the project’s contractor, with three serious violations following their investigation.
“This tragic death is a reminder of just how quickly an unprotected trench can become a death trap as a worker is buried under thousands of pounds of soil,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Soil dynamics are an unpredictable aspect of all trenching and excavations. Soil gives no warning prior to giving away, burying workers in just seconds. Inspection, protective systems and training are the difference between life and death in cases like these.”
In addition to citing the companies for failing to provide trench protection, inspectors said the employers did not have a competent person inspect the trench before allowing workers to enter. The companies also permitted soil piles within two feet of the excavation site, also a violation.
OSHA has issued citations as follows:
- Clau Chin Construction of Alliance, the homebuilder, faces $31,000 in fines for five serious safety violations.
- Larry Kessler Construction of Scottsbluff, the excavating contractor, faces fines of $21,000 for three serious violations.
OSHA’s trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet and that soil and other materials are kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.
Both companies had 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.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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