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March 16, 2016

OSHA cites Ohio excavating company in Hillsboro trench collapse
that caused 26-year-old worker's death
Lack of safety protections, training led to tragedy

HILLSBORO, Ohio - For a 26-year-old Ohio construction worker, his new job turned out to be his last. Just a month after starting work for Stauffer Site Services LLC, a nearly 10-foot deep trench collapsed and buried him as he worked installing a sewer line. The man died two days later due to the injuries he suffered.

Research shows that a cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 lbs., about the weight of small automobile. Trenching and excavation are among the most dangerous construction activities, and cave-ins are often lethal to workers crushed or suffocated by thousands of pounds of soil and rock.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found Stauffer did not provide trench cave-in protection for its employees. OSHA cited the company for one willful and three serious safety violations on March 1 after the agency completed its investigation into the Oct. 6, 2015 injury.

"This tragic death is a reminder of just how quickly an unprotected trench can become a death trap as a worker is buried under thousands of pounds of soil," said Ken Montgomery, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati. "OSHA's trenching standards require that every trench deeper than 5 feet must have cave-in protection."

While investigating the fatality OSHA found:

  • Employees were not trained in the recognition of trench hazards.
  • No means of access or egress was provide within 25 feet of the work area.
  • Worksite inspections were not made by a competent person.

Proposed penalties total $91,000. View citations here*.

The Mason-based company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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 Cincinnati office at 513-841-4132.

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

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Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-353-6976,
Rhonda Burke, 312-353-6976,

Release Number: 16-494-CHI

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