Workers toiling in a trench in St. Louis, Missouri were in danger because their workspace was unprotected by a trench box or some other trench protection, according to OSHA, which cited R.V. Wagner Inc for multiple violations.

The citations issued to the Affton, Missouri-based company were for a project involving the installation of concrete storm water pipes. Proposed penalties for violations of trench safety standards: $212,158.

“Employers must ensure that employees enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-in hazards,” said OSHA St. Louis Area Director Bill McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri. “A trench collapse can happen in just seconds, potentially burying employees under thousands of pounds of soil and causing severe injury.”

OSHA cited two willful violations for failing to:

  • use a trench box or other trench protection techniques in an excavation greater than five feet in depth and
  • to provide a safe means to exit the excavation.

OSHA also cited R.V. Wagner for three serious violations for:

  • allowing soil and other excavated material within 2 feet of an open trench
  • failing to ensure daily inspections of worksites by a competent person, and
  • exposing employees to struck-by hazards by allowing employees to work near and under lifted loads without hard hats.

OSHA recently updated the National Emphasis Program on preventing trenching and excavation collapses, and developed a series of compliance assistance resources to help keep workers safe from these hazards. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage provides information on trenching hazards and solutions. Additional information is available in OSHA’s construction hazards prevention videos on trenching and soil classification.