Cal/OSHA has cited a Riverside, California construction company $66,000 for serious workplace safety violations that resulted in the death of a worker when a 17-foot-deep trench he was in collapsed. The agency determined that Empire Equipment Services, Inc. did not properly classify the soil and failed to correctly slope the excavation.
On May 9, two Empire Equipment Services workers were installing sewer pipes at a Lake Forest residential construction site when a 30-foot-wide section of the trench’s sidewall sloughed and collapsed. Only one of the workers was able to escape.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that the company failed to ensure the site was inspected by someone who was deemed competent by the employer and familiar with trench hazards, soil classification and the appropriate safety requirements. The soil at the worksite was unstable, requiring an adequate protective system.
“Because working in excavations is so dangerous, a competent person must conduct thorough visual and manual tests to properly classify the soil and adequately protect employees from cave-ins,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Failing to carry out these requirements can be fatal.”
Cal/OSHA issued citations to Empire Equipment Services Inc. for two serious accidentrelated violations and one general violation with $66,000 in proposed penalties. One of the serious violations is classified as repeat. In August 2017, Cal/OSHA had cited the employer $24,670 for serious safety violations after conducting an inspection at another site in Lake Forest. During that inspection, Cal/OSHA found that the employer had exposed its workers to serious hazards while working in a trench deeper than five feet without properly sloping or installing any adequate protective systems.
Before starting excavation work in California, the approximate locations of all underground installations that may be encountered during excavation operations must be determined and the proper notification must be made to the appropriate regional notification center in either Northern or Southern California. A permit from the local Cal/OSHA district office must be obtained before the construction of excavations five feet or deeper into which any person is required to descend.