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OSHA proposes $1.8 million in penalties for repeat trenching violations


The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday said it cited a Minnesota contractor and proposed $1.8 million in penalties for endangering employees with trenching hazards, the citation following a 2021 agreement with the federal government over similar failures.

OSHA cited International Falls-based Wagner Construction Inc. for six instance-by-instance repeat violations for exposing workers to cave-in hazards by not providing adequate protective systems.

Five other instance-by-instance repeat violations were identified relating to a failure to provide a safe means for employees to enter and exit trenches, the agency said.

The latest citation stems from a workplace inspection that found workers in June were endangered while working on a residential water main and related tasks in Minot.

The company in April 2021 signed a settlement agreement with OSHA promising to improve safety procedures and training relating to trenching hazards at three North Dakota job sites in 2019 and 2020, OSHA stated.

In the agreement, Wagner Construction pledged to make significant changes, including offering enhanced training on trenching and excavation safety, hiring a full-time compliance manager, and buying new safety equipment to protect workers from cave-in hazards, according to OSHA.