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A trenching accident in Texas

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A Texas construction contractor faces a proposed fine of $108,500 following a trenching accident that claimed a worker’s life, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 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 on April 5th when the walls of a 33-foot deep trench collapsed at the company’s worksite in Lubbock. OSHA has standards to prevent trenching accidents. The company failed to ensure that employees were working within the protective system designed to safeguard workers from potential cave-in hazards. The willful citations were issued for reportedly 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. A willful citation is issued for violations committed with disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

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. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition about which the employer knew or should have known.