A South Dakota construction company has been hit with more than $95,000 in proposed fines for failing to protect its workers from trench collapse hazards.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a 34-year-old worker employed by First Dakota Enterprises Inc. was completely buried when the walls of a 14-foot trench caved in around him.
Co-workers quickly jumped in to try and dig the man out and were able to free his head from beneath the tons of dirt that trapped the rest of his body. The worker was able to breathe while rescuers arrived at the scene and worked more than 30 minutes to dig him out.
The accident occurred May 23 at a construction site in the city of Emery, South Dakota, which had contracted the company to replace the main sewer and water lines.
OSHA investigators responding to the accident determined that First Dakota Enterprises failed to use a required trench protection system or conduct regular site inspections to correct dangerous conditions. The agency cited First Dakota for two repeat and one serious safety violations concerning trench collapse hazards.
Trench collapses are consistently among the most deadly hazards in the construction industry, making trenching safety regulations absolutely vital to worker safety.
According to OSHA, 15 workers have died in trench collapses as of June 1, 2017. In 2016, a total of 23 deaths occurred in trench and excavation operations. Federal safety regulations require employers to shore up the walls of trenches deeper than five feet and building materials and equipment must be kept at least two feet from the edge of a trench.
“Trench collapses are preventable,” said OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls. “It is critical that employers involved in excavation work review their safety procedures to ensure that employees are properly protected and trained. Had it not been for the heroic actions of these co-workers, this dangerous collapse may have ended in tragedy.”