Cave-in Death Leads to Willful Charges against Texas Construction Firm

OSHA has cited M&G Equipment Group Ltd., doing business as M Construction in Alamo, Texas, with two alleged willful and six alleged serious violations following the death of an employee who was working in a trench installing a storm drainage system. Proposed penalties total $53,550.

"A company's failure to protect its workers from cave-ins is simply unacceptable," said Michael Rivera, OSHA's area director in Corpus Christi, Texas. "If OSHA's standards regarding proper trench sloping, shoring, and shielding were followed, it is possible this tragedy could have been avoided."

An investigation by OSHA's Corpus Christi Area Office that began March 5 led to the issuance of two willful violations for failure to provide workers with adequate protection from a possible trench cave-in and failure of a competent person to take action where there was evidence of a possible trench cave-in. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Serious citations were issued for failure to provide workers with safe egress when working in a trench, keep excavated soil a safe distance from a trench, use a properly designed trench shield, and ensure workers are trained on excavation hazards. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

M&G Equipment Group develops commercial and residential construction projects, and employs about 15 workers. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Corpus Christi, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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