Personal Injury

Fatal trench collapse amounts to steep fines for Dothan company

DOTHAN, Ala. – A southeast Alabama construction company specializing in laying sewer lines was cited for numerous safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following a cave-in last September at an excavation site in Enterprise, Ala. One employee died and another was hospitalized in the incident after wet, heavy soil collapsed into a deep trench while the men were laying sewer pipe.

“An unprotected trench can become a grave in seconds if its walls cave in on workers,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s area director in Mobile. “In this case, the soil was saturated with water, and the company failed to take the necessary measures to effectively protect the workers against this collapse.”

OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. According to OSHA, unprotected trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.

OSHA issued three willful citations to L & K Contracting Co. of Dothan, Ala., for failing to adequately protect its workers from a cave-in incident; for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with water accumulation in an excavation; and for allowing workers to work in the trench without the proper protective gear. According to OSHA regulations, these violations demonstrated an intentional disregard for the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

OSHA inspectors also cited the company for one serious citation for allowing employees to work inside a trench approximately 10 feet deep without a safe means of exit from the excavation. The employer also failed to report the worker’s death to OSHA within the required eight-hour time period, a violation for which it received an other-than-serious violation.

OSHA’s proposed penalties for the violations amount to $159,600 in fines.