S. Dakota contractor faces $58,343 in penalties for trench violations

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Updated Sep 8, 2019
An example of an unsafe trench.An example of an unsafe trench.

A South Dakota contractor faces penalties of $58,343 for a worker being in a trench without proper cave-in protection, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On April 29, Midwest Excavating LLC of Sioux Falls was repairing a residential water leak. OSHA said a worker entered the trench, which was 7 feet 6 inches deep with vertical walls. The trench was 3 feet wide and 5 feet 8 inches long and had no cave-in protection.

The trench also did not have proper means of exiting and entering, and a soil analysis had not been conducted. OSHA said these conditions exposed workers to potential cave-in and struck-by hazards, as well as fall hazards due to improper ladder usage.

Workers were using a 6-foot step ladder that was closed and leaning against the trench wall and not opened with the spreaders locked correctly. Ladders should extend at least 3 feet above the trench top. The citation also said that at one point the ladder was not in the trench when a worker was inside.

“OSHA regulations require the use of trench protective systems in all trenches deeper than 5 feet,” said Sheila Stanley, OSHA Sioux Falls area director. “Employers can prevent a cave-in by sloping, shoring or shielding trench walls.”

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”.