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Contractor fined $108,500 for deadly trenching accident

A Texas construction contractor faces a proposed fine of $108,500 following a trenching accident that claimed a worker's life, according to OSHA.

Utility Contractors of America LLC, Lubbock, Texas, a construction company headquartered in Wolfforth, Texas, was cited for two alleged willful and seven alleged serious violations for not protecting employees involved in excavation work from cave-in hazards. The fatal accident occurred April 5 when the walls of a 33-foot deep trench collapsed at the company's worksite in Lubbock.

"OSHA has standards to prevent trenching accidents, and we are enforcing these standards aggressively," said John Miles, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "In this instance, the company did not ensure that employees were working within the protective system designed to safeguard workers from potential cave-in hazards."

The willful citations were issued for failing to instruct employees to remain within the confines of a trench shield while working inside the excavation and to provide them with an adequate surface with guard rails while walking over the excavation.

The serious violations included failing to:

  • ensure workers did not use the track hoe bucket to access trenches;
  • provide a ladder within 25 feet of the excavation area;
  • provide adequate protection from overhead loads while installing sewer piping;
  • ensure that a competent person was at the site in the event of a cave-in; and
  • follow manufacturer's instruction on the use and limitations of trench protective systems.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply or contest the citations and proposed penalties.

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