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A South Dakota construction company is facing $95,064 in proposed penalties from federal workplace safety regulators after a trench collapse buried a 34-year-old worker.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Fort Pierre, South Dakota-based First Dakota Enterprises Inc. for failing to protect its workers from trench collapse hazards after the May incident in which the employee was completely buried when the walls of a 14-foot trench collapsed around him, according to an agency press release issued on Friday. Co-workers freed the victim’s head, which allowed him to breathe while emergency personnel worked for more than 30 minutes to free him, according to the press release.
OSHA investigators determined that First Dakota failed to use a trench protective system or conduct regular site inspections to correct potentially hazardous conditions and cited the company, which was contracted by the City of Emery to replace the city’s main sewer and water lines, for two repeat and one serious safety violations, according to the press release.
Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry, with 15 workers dying this year as of June 1, according to the agency. In 2016, 23 deaths occurred in trench and excavation operations.
“Trench collapses are preventable,” OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls, said in a statement. “It is critical that employers involved in excavation work review their safety procedures to ensure that employees are properly protected and trained. Had it not been for the heroic actions of these co-workers, this dangerous collapse may have ended in tragedy.”
A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will restore its injury tracking application after a technology scan confirmed that there was no breach of the data in the application.