trenchIf his employer had protected him properly as he worked in a 12-foot-deep trench to connect a new home's plumbing to the main sewer line, 31-year-old LeDonte McCruter could have returned home at day's end to spend time with the young nieces and nephews he adored. Instead, a kind man known for his quick smile died at a Birmingham work site when the trench around him collapsed and buried him alive on Aug. 31, 2014. Rescue workers tried for more than six hours to save McCruter, a day laborer.

OSHA responded to the scene at 1416 24th Street in Birmingham and found that subcontractor Joshua Dailey, who hired McCruter, did not provide cave-in protection to prevent the trench collapse. OSHA deemed Dailey responsible for one willful and one serious safety violation. The site's general contractor, Otis Bates and Bates Construction, also faces one serious safety violation.

"Mr. McCruter's employers knew they were placing him in mortal danger by not using cave-in protection, yet they allowed him to work in the trench," said Ramona Morris, director of OSHA's Birmingham Area Office. "His family is grieving the death of a loved one because his employer willfully failed to protect him from this known hazard."

A willful citation was issued to Dailey for not providing cave-in protection to employees working in a trench. Dailey was also cited for not notifying OSHA of the fatality.

OSHA requires that all trenches and excavation sites at a depth of 5 feet or more be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.

Bates Construction received a serious citation for failure to provide cave-in protection to employees working in a trench.

OSHA proposes that Dailey be placed in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its OSH Act obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees.

Proposed penalties total $53,800.

In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers, who are at increased risk of work-related injury and illness. The initiative includes outreach, training and enforcement to ensure that temporary workers are protected on the job. OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have also issued a "Recommended Practices"* publication that focuses on ensuring temporary workers receive the same training and protection as permanent employees.