A plumbing contractor who allowed employees to work in a trench that showed signs of water intrusion and possible collapse has been fined $37,318 by OSHA – after one of those workers died in a trench collapse.

Rhobina Electric Inc. in Batesville, Mississippi was cited for exposing employees to excavation hazards after the fatality. The commercial electrical and plumbing contractor was installing sewer pipe to a new concrete manhole when the incident occurred.

OSHA cited the company for allowing employees to work in a trench without hard hats and cave-in protection, and for not removing workers from a trench that showed signs of water intrusion and possible collapse. OSHA also cited the contractor for failing to meet the reporting requirement, which mandates that employers notify OSHA within eight hours of any incident involving an employee fatality.

"This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had followed the law and sloped, shored or shielded the trench walls to prevent a collapse," said OSHA Area Director Courtney Bohannon, in Jackson, Mississippi.

OSHA recently updated its National Emphasis Program on preventing injuries related to trenching and excavation collapses. OSHA's trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a trenching operations QuickCard, and a "Protect Workers in Trenches" poster.