Construction, Enforcement and Inspection

Trenching Hazards Dominate Recent OSHA Construction Enforcement

On Monday, three news releases from OSHA covered recent enforcement actions. Two of them were taken against construction companies that failed to protect employees from trenching hazards, and one of the enforcement actions was unfortunately taken only after two employees were killed.

Trench construction

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Hazards Discovered in El Paso, Texas

In the first case, OSHA cited El Paso Underground Construction for failing to protect its employees from trench collapse hazards. The pipe-laying company faces proposed penalties of $190,642.

OSHA conducted an inspection after observing employees working in an unprotected trench. OSHA cited the company for failing to provide employees a safe means of entering and exiting a trench, not protecting employees against cave-ins, and for failing to train employees in safe work practices. OSHA cited the company four times in 2017 for failing to protect employees from trench collapse hazards. The Agency has placed El Paso Underground in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“This company has once again put their employees at serious risk by failing to provide training and implement required trenching protections,” said OSHA Area Office Director Diego Alvarado, in El Paso. “Unprotected trenches can be fatal and it is fortunate that no one was injured.”

El Paso Underground Construction has 15 business days from receipt of the 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.

2 Fatalities in Miami

OSHA has also cited Archer Western Construction Inc. for safety violations after two employees suffered fatal injuries while performing trenching activities at a Miami worksite.

OSHA inspectors determined that a section of a concrete highway barrier collapsed on the two employees as they removed a storm drain system. The Atlanta-based company faces $33,259 in proposed fines, including the maximum penalties for exposing employees to struck-by hazards by allowing them to work near a concrete barrier that was not shored, braced, or underpinned; and allowing employees to perform trenching work in an area that was not inspected for hazards. The investigation was part of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.

“Trenching and excavation work is especially dangerous when appropriate protective systems are not used,” said OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had ensured that adjoining structures were shored, braced, or underpinned to avoid a collapse.”

Archer Western Construction Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.

A National Priority

It is not surprising to see trenching citations dominating construction enforcement, as OSHA has stated that one of its priority goals for 2018 is to reduce trenching and excavation accidents. To avoid citations and ensure that your employees are kept safe while on the job, ensure that your construction company is aware of ongoing enforcement as well as best practices and guidance for mitigating the risks and hazards that accompany trench work.