Worker's Death in Trench Leads to Contractor's $159,600 Fine

One employee died and another was hospitalized after wet, heavy soil collapsed into a deep trench while the men were installing a sewer pipe.

L & K Contracting Co. in Dothan, Ala., is being cited with five safety violations by OSHA following a cave-in last September at an excavation site in Enterprise, Ala. One employee died and another was hospitalized after wet, heavy soil collapsed into a deep trench while the men were installing a sewer pipe. The company has been assessed $159,600 in proposed penalties.

"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 issued three willful citations for the company's failure to take adequate action to protect workers from soil that fell into the excavation, protect workers from hazards associated with water accumulation in an excavation, and ensure that workers wore appropriate personal protective equipment while in the trench.

One serious citation was issued for allowing employees to work inside a trench approximately 10 feet deep without a safe means of exit from the excavation, and one other-than-serious citation was issued for failing to report the fatality to OSHA within the required eight-hour time period.

OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.

The company specializes in the installation of sewer lines in southeast Alabama.

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