OSHA Cites Missouri Contract For Trench Engulfment Hazards

R.V. Wagner Inc. is facing $212,158 in penalties for failing to use trench protection techniques, failing to provide a safe exit and other serious violations.

OSHA has cited a Missouri contractor for exposing employees to trench engulfment hazards while workers were installing concrete storm water pipes in St. Louis, the U.S. Department of Labor announced on July 16.

R.V. Wagner Inc., based in Affton, Missouri, is facing penalties of $212,158 for two willful violations: failing to use a trench box or other trench protection techniques in an excavation greater than five feet in depth and for failing to provide a safe means to exit the excavation.

Engulfment can cause physical harm when a substance – which could include soil, sand or gravel – has enough force on the body to cause injury or death by constriction, crushing or strangulation, according to the State Fund, the largest provider of workers’ compensation insurance in California.

“Employers must ensure that employees enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-in hazards,” Bill McDonald, the St. Louis OSHA director, said in a statement. “A trench collapse can happen in just seconds, potentially burying employees under thousands of pounds of soil and causing severe injury.”

R.V. Wagner was also cited for three other serious violations: allowing soil and other excavated material within two feet of an open trench; exposing employees to struck-by hazards by allowing employees to work near and under lift loads without hard hats; and failing to ensure daily inspections of worksites by a competent person.

Companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, contest the findings or request an informal conference with the area director.

The agency recently updated its National Emphasis Program on preventing trenching and excavation collapses, adding a series of resources to help keep workers safe from the hazards.

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