OSHA Cites Contractor with Serious, Willful Violations in Trench-Collapse Death of Two Workers

Unprotected trench collapsed killing the crew's foreman and another worker, hospitalizing a third with serious injuries. There were no signs of compliance with trench safety standards

Occupational Safety & Health Administration

A Boise, Idaho, excavation contractor could have prevented the deaths of two workers and serious injuries suffered by a third after a trench collapse if the company had not allowed federal safety standards to be ignored at a Northwest Boise work site in May.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors responded to the scene after the Boise Police Department alerted them that a trench between 9 and 11 ft. deep had caved in and buried three workers employed by Hard Rock Construction Inc. The collapse killed the crew's foreman and another worker, and hospitalized the third laborer. The men were doing underground utility work for the Meridian-based contractor when the incident occurred May 3, 2016, on Gary Lane.

Each year, dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injury when trench walls collapse and bury them in soil and rock. One cubic yard of soil can equal the weight of a small automobile, about 3,000 lb. Excavation cave-ins are among the most common causes of fatalities in the construction industry.

OSHA inspectors found Hard Rock failed to provide cave-in protection systems or a ladder to enter or exit the trench, did not have a competent person conducting inspections and failed to train its employees on the hazards and dangers in working in trenches. The agency issued three serious citations and one willful citation, and assessed penalties of $77,319 to the company today.

"The tragic loss of these men's lives and serious injuries suffered by their co-worker were preventable, which makes this incident even more tragic," said David Kearns, area director of OSHA's Boise office. "Our investigation found Hard Rock Construction made almost no effort to protect its workers, or even to understand the right ways to avoid the common hazards in this line of work. Hiring workers and assuming they know how to protect themselves is a sure path to tragedy."

Hard Rock employs about 24 employees in excavation, grading and underground utility installation. The company has 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.

The citations can be viewed at: https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/1144643_HardRockConstructionCitation.pdf