Trench collapse in Neb. that injured 2 results in $106,078 proposed fine

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Updated May 23, 2019

Construction working wearing a safety vest and hard hat in a trenchA Nebraska construction company faces a fine of $106,078 for a trench collapse that injured two workers.

The workers were repairing a fiber optic cable November 21 in Lincoln when the trench collapsed. One was buried up to his waist and another was buried up to his knees, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Both workers were rescued by emergency personnel. A third worker in another collapsed trench on the site escaped injury, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says.

The company, T.H. Construction of Gretna, Nebraska, was cited for failing to use protective systems to prevent a collapse. The citation is for a willful violation, which means “the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety,” according to OSHA. The company has 15 days to appeal the citation.

According to the OSHA citation, the two workers who were injured were in a trench that was 9 feet, 8 inches, and 5.6 feet wide. One side wall of the trench collapsed trapping the employees. OSHA says they were seriously injured.

The employee who escaped injury was in a trench that was 6.5 feet deep and 5.5 feet wide.

“Compliance with trenching and excavation regulations is not optional,” said OSHA Omaha Area Office Director Jeff Funke. “Employers are legally required to use appropriate protective systems to ensure that workers are not injured.”

For more on the business and human costs of trench-collapse fatalities in the United States, see Equipment World’s special report “Death by Trench”.