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OSHA News Release
Region 5

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

October 4, 2016

OSHA cites Wisconsin contractor for ignoring dangers of trench collapse
Workers found in 9-foot deep trench without cave-in protection

STEVENS POINT, Wis. - An Arpin contractor faces penalties of $93,532 after federal inspectors found the company risked the lives of at least two of its employees as they installed underground water, sanitary and storm sewer utilities in an unprotected 9-foot deep trench at the Stevens Point Sixth Avenue Reconstruction Project.

Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration saw two workers employed by Earth Inc. in a trench without required protection. Cave-in protection prevents trench walls from collapsing and potentially burying the workers in thousands of pounds of soil and rock. Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry.

On Sept. 29, 2016, OSHA issued the employer one willful and two serious safety citations following its investigation of unsafe working conditions on June 22, 2016.

OSHA cited Earth Inc. for allowing its employees to work in the trench without cave-in protection and a means to exit the trench quickly in a collapse. In addition, inspectors determined a competent person was aware of the hazardous conditions but still allowed the worker to enter the trench.

"Each year, dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injury needlessly while working in trenches. Ground soil gives no warning prior to giving away, and a collapse can bury workers in just seconds," said Robert Bonack, OSHA's area director in Appleton. "One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small automobile making it almost impossible to avoid tragedy. Inspection, use of protective systems and proper training can be the difference between life and death."

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials remain at least two feet from the edge of trench.

View current citations here.

The 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 amputations, eye loss, 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 Appleton Area Office at 920-734-4521.

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: 16-1887-CHI

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