40-Year-Old Equipment Operator Suffers Serious Injuries in Trench Cave-In at SD Work Site

Sioux Falls, SD (WorkersCompensation.com) - Employer name: Kempf Construction Inc. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Citations issued: Jan. 9, 2017
Trenching Injuries & Deaths - Chart showing trench-related fatalities and trench-related reported injuries in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (YTD). In 2012, there were 8 fatalities and 2 injuries. In 2013, there were 15 fatalities and 2 injuries. In 2014, there were 11 fatalities and 13 injuries. In 2015, there were  11 fatalities and 16 injuries. In 2016 (YTD), there were 22 fatalities and 12 injuries. Source: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html

Investigation findings: The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Sioux Falls excavating contractor for five serious safety violations after the agency's investigators found a 40-year-old equipment operator suffered severe injuries while working in a 16-foot-deep trench on Oct. 28, 2016. A large amount of dirt fell into a trench box in which the man was working and collapsed upon him. The worker was installing sewer lines at a site in Brandon, South Dakota.

OSHA found Kempf Construction failed to:

  • Protect employees working in a trench.
  • Failed to slope sides of trench in accordance with OSHA standards.
  • Properly place a ladder used to access the trench box.
  • Remove employees from the trench when hazardous conditions were apparent.
  • Provide sanitary facilities on the job site.

Quote: "Kempf Construction's failure to adhere to OSHA standards to protect workers in trenches has resulted in debilitating injuries to this man. They will likely affect him and his ability to make a living for the rest of his life. In 2016, more than two dozen workers were injured and at least 22 killed in trenches nationwide. Trench deaths have more than doubled since 2015. This is an alarming trend that must be halted," said Sheila Stanley, OSHA's area director in Sioux Falls. "Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions - including installing trench boxes, shoring and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse."

Backgorund: OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems in trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

Proposed Penalties: $40,538.

View Citations here.

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