Alabama company sued for trench collapse

Incident led to fatal injury for one worker

Alabama company sued for trench collapse

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing a $110,590 charge on a Huntsville, Alabama contracting company for a Jan. 15 incident that led to fatal injuries to one worker.

On the day of the incident, an employee of Weaver Environmental Services Inc. – operating as WESCO – entered a trench greater than 5 feet in depth to work on underground utility pipes. Shortly after he entered the trench, it collapsed around him, suffocating the employee beneath thousands of pounds of soil.

After investigation, OSHA found that the company exposed workers to cave-in hazards when it failed to conduct proper safety inspections of open trenches/excavations and failed to use a shielding system that was available and onsite. The company also failed to protect workers from struck-by hazards while working beneath an undermined section of concrete curbing.

“Trenching and excavation is among the most dangerous work in the construction industry,” said Ramona Morris, OSHA Birmingham area office director. “The failure to use required safety equipment and follow procedures in this case turned a preventable hazard into a fatal result. We hope other industry employers comply with the law and take appropriate actions to avoid similar tragedies.”

OSHA cited WESCO with one willful violation for exposing workers to cave-in hazards, and two serious violations for failing to inspect the excavation and failing to support the undermined structure, which exposed workers to cave-in and struck-by hazards.

Previously, one worker from another employer was crushed to death by an aluminum bale. Also, Ontario employer R.M. Belanger Limited was fined after pleading guilty to a violation that resulted in the death of one worker.