March 5, 2015
Trench collapse buries and kills local day laborer
Blatant disregard of safety standards by contractors leads to preventable fatality
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – If his employer had protected him properly as he worked in a 12-foot-deep trench to connect a new home's plumbing to the main sewer line, 31-year-old LeDonte McCruter could have returned home at day's end to spend time with the young nieces and nephews he adored. Instead, a kind man known for his quick smile died at a Birmingham work site when the trench around him collapsed and buried him alive on Aug. 31, 2014. Rescue workers tried for more than six hours to save McCruter, a day laborer.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators responded to the scene at 1416 24th Street in Birmingham and found that subcontractor Joshua Dailey, who hired McCruter, did not provide cave-in protection to prevent the trench collapse. OSHA deemed Dailey responsible for one willful and one serious safety violation. The site's general contractor, Otis Bates and Bates Construction, also faces one serious safety violation.
Rescue personnel conclude their search after finding the victim's body.
"Mr. McCruter's employers knew they were placing him in mortal danger by not using cave-in protection, yet they allowed him to work in the trench," said Ramona Morris, director of OSHA's Birmingham Area Office. "His family is grieving the death of a loved one because his employer willfully failed to protect him from this known hazard."
A willful citation was issued to Dailey for not providing cave-in protection to employees working in a trench. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Dailey was also cited for not notifying OSHA of the fatality.
OSHA requires that all trenches and excavation sites at a depth of 5 feet or more be protected against sidewall collapses. Protection may be provided through shoring of trench walls, sloping of the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box. OSHA has created a National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
Bates Construction received a serious citation for failure to provide cave-in protection to employees working in a trench. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA proposes that Dailey be placed in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its OSH Act obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees.
Dailey and Bates Construction have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Proposed penalties total $53,800.
In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers, who are at increased risk of work-related injury and illness. The initiative includes outreach, training and enforcement to ensure that temporary workers are protected on the job. OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have also issued a "Recommended Practices"* publication that focuses on ensuring temporary workers receive the same training and protection as permanent employees.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows fatal work injuries in Alabama accounted for 66 of the 4,405 fatal work injuries* reported nationally in 2013. Additional details are available at http://www.bls.gov.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Birmingham Area Office at 205-731-1534.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
Release Number: 15-270-ATL (61)
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).
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