OSHA fines Colorado-based contractor for trench violations

ConDig (30-Mar-22).  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a Colorado-based contractor $198,893 for serious trenching safety violations.

The agency cited Groundworks Colorado LLC, doing business as Foundation Repair of Western Colorado, for one willful and five serious violations.

It comes as OSHA said it found the company willfully allowed workers to work in trenches up to 10 feet, 6 inches deep without protective or retaining devices in place.

It also determined workers had not received training on trenching hazards or how to recognize and control those hazards. The company also failed to have a competent person inspect the trenches prior to the start of work, and allowed excavated materials to be placed within 2 feet of the excavation’s edge.

“Every year, workers are hurt or killed in trench incidents that could have been prevented. Our investigation determined that Groundworks required workers to enter trenches that it knew were unsafe. They are extremely lucky their willful negligence has not led to a tragedy,” said OSHA.

Earlier this month, OSHA fined a Burlington, Kentucky-based pipe contractor $214,636 for exposing a worker to a potential trench collapse. The agency cited Lanigan Construction LLC for two willful and four serious safety violations after an investigation found a worker in an unprotected trench at a residential construction site in November. 

Trench collapses remain among the construction industry’s most dangerous hazards. From 2011 and 2018, trench cave-ins led to 203 fatal injuries in the industry – all of them preventable had the required safety measures been taken, according to OHSA.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavationsTrenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of egress prior to allowing a worker to enter.

The National Utility Contractors Association has declared June 2022 “Trench Safety Month.”