Investigation of Deadly Trench Collapse finds Colorado Company Exposed Workers to Excavation Hazards

Investigation of Deadly Trench Collapse finds Colorado Company Exposed Workers to Excavation Hazards

OSHA cites Dunaway Excavating Inc. for four violations and proposes $208K in penalties.

A deadly trench collapse in Johnstown, Colorado on April 16, 2021 led to a federal workplace safety investigation. It concluded that a Strasburg excavation contractor failed to take required safety precautions that might have prevented the death of a 50-year-old worker.

OSHA determined that Dunaway Excavating Inc. allowed employees to work in a 16-foot deep trench amid accumulating water and without any protection. Inspectors responded to the collapse after one of two workers in the trench became stuck in mud under water.

According to a press release, Dunaway Excavating was cited for two willful serious violations for failing to protect workers from accumulating water, not using protective systems, such as a trench box. Additionally, the company was cited for failing to ensure workers had a secure way to exit the trench safely. The company faces $208,543 in proposed penalties. OSHA has placed Dunaway Excavating in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“The threat of trench collapses makes excavation work among the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry,” said OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. “This worker’s life and family’s grief could have been spared if required precautions had been taken.”

In 2019, trench collapses caused 24 deaths in the construction industry, according to the most recent data from Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA’s national emphasis program on trenching and excavations encourages employers to develop and implement safety procedures and train their workers on recognizing potentially hazardous situations. Learn more about trenching and excavation safety here.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent OSHRC.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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