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The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has cited a Riverside construction company $66,000 for serious workplace safety violations that resulted in the death of a worker when a 17-foot-deep trench collapsed, Cal/OSHA announced on Tuesday.
Investigators determined that Empire Equipment Services Inc., which had already been cited for a similar violation, did not properly classify the soil and failed to correctly slope the excavation, according to a statement chronicling the May 9 incident when two workers were installing sewer pipes at a residential construction site in Lake Forest, California. A 30-foot-wide section of the trench’s sidewall sloughed and collapsed and only one of the workers was able to escape, Cal/OSHA reported.
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, according to the statement.
“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,” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum said in a statement. “Failing to carry out these requirements can be fatal.”
Cal/OSHA issued citations to Empire for two serious accident-related 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 fined the company $24,670 for serious safety violations after conducting an inspection at another site in Lake Forest.
During that inspection, Cal/OSHA found 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, according to the statement.
The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
U.S. workplace safety regulators have cited and proposed penalties of $202,201 against an Ohio excavation contractor after an employee suffered fatal injuries in a trench collapse and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.