Oregon OSHA Fines Excavation Company in Fatal Trench Collapse

The agency cited the company for two willful violations, each with the legal maximum penalty of $70,000, for failing to provide an adequate system to protect employees from cave-ins and failing to provide a ladder or other safe means to leave the trench.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) recently announced it has fined TC Excavating LLC $142,800 for five violations, including two willful violations, after investigating a May 2016 trench collapse that killed an employee. It occurred May 5, 2016, during the installation of a sewer line for a house in southwest Portland.

The agency's news release said its investigation found two employees were working in an improperly shored trench about 10 feet deep. "The excavation was incorrectly braced because two pieces of shoring were spaced too far apart to handle unstable soil. One of the employees was on his hands and knees working between the two pieces of shoring – spaced 15 feet apart – when the unprotected wall collapsed. The collapse buried and killed the employee. During the investigation, the company's owner, who was on site, said he was negligent in allowing his employees to work in such a situation. He said he saw that the shoring was set up about 15 feet apart and that he knew it was not set up correctly," the Nov. 1 release stated.

"There is absolutely no good reason for an employer to disregard clear and time-tested excavation rules that protect workers from such tragedies," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "This is a time to pause and remember that a young man died, leaving behind family and friends and co-workers. And it is a time to remind ourselves that this was not some sort of 'freak accident.' It was predictable and it was preventable."

The agency cited the company for two willful violations, each with the legal maximum penalty of $70,000, for failing to provide an adequate system to protect employees from cave-ins and failing to provide a ladder or other safe means to leave the trench. Oregon OSHA rules require an excavation that has a depth of 4 feet or more to have a ladder, stairway, or ramp within 25 feet of employee.

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