Excavation company named severe violator after fatal trench collapse

October 2011, Vol. 66 No. 10

Following a trench collapse that killed one worker and injured another, an Ohio excavation company now faces Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) penalties in excess of $150,000.

Bontrager Excavating LTD in Uniontown, OH, was cited for five violations for failing to protect workers in the trench, including two willful violations, two serious violations and one repeat violation. In addition to the penalties, the contractor was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Program, which mandated follow-up inspections to ensure OSHA compliance.

This incident concerned the alleged improper placement of a trench box, used to reinforce a trench’s dirt wall, eight feet below grade. The trench wall above the box collapsed, killing one worker and injuring another. OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected from collapse. The company’s will violations arose from the company’s failure to consistently use a trench box to protect workers. The serious violations stemmed from the company’s alleged failure to determine the location of underground utilities and ensure the proper use of protective shield system. The repeat violation resulted from the contractor allegedly failing to provide workers within the trench box a safe means of egress. The company had been cited for the same violation four years earlier.