OSHA Concludes Plumbing Contractor Could Have Prevented Fatal Trench Collapse

OSHA Concludes Plumbing Contractor Could Have Prevented Fatal Trench Collapse

Macon, Georgia-based Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. faces $308,125 in proposed penalties.

Following a trench collapse in Macon, Georgia, that resulted in the death of a 20-year-old worker and severe injuries to another, OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $308,125 against Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc.

According to a release dated Feb. 29, the incident occurred on August 10, 2023 and incited an OSHA investigation. Ultimately, the agency determined the plumbing contractor could have prevented the incident if it had followed mandatory safety measures.

In particular, OSHA found that Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors failed to provide adequate trench shields and safe exit means from the trench box, leading to two willful violations. The company also received three serious violations for allowing work in a trench with defective shields, lack of head protection, and insufficient employee hazard training.

“This employer has over 20 years of experience in excavation. So they are well aware that the work they do can be dangerous if safety protocols are disregarded,” OSHA Atlanta-East Area Office Director Joshua Turner said in a statement. “A trench shield’s tabulated data includes specifications that dictate whether the protective system can be used at certain depths and under specific conditions. This and other safety information is widely available to employers. When they choose to ignore these simple methods, a worker’s death can be the tragic result.”

According to OSHA, trench-related activities accounted for 39 fatalities in 2022. As a result, the agency has intensified enforcement efforts through initiatives such as its national emphasis program. Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. now has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference or contest the agency’s findings.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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