Department of Labor Logo OSHA News Release - Region 6


March 18, 2024

 

US Department of Labor investigation finds Houston-area contractor ignored federal safety measures in teenager’s trench collapse death

Serial violator, Hurtado Construction faces $257K in penalties after latest incident

 

HOUSTON – A Houston-area contractor's willful disregard for required safety procedures contributed to an 18-year-old worker fatality when a 15-foot trench wall collapsed on him near Fulshear in September 2023, a federal investigation has found.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Hurtado Construction Co. allowed the teenager to work in the excavation without a proper protective system in place to prevent its collapse. The young worker suffered fatal injuries when the trench wall caved in, and tons of dirt pinned him against a reinforced concrete box.

In November 2021, OSHA cited the company for failing to use an adequate protective system to safeguard employees from a potentially deadly collapse at another excavation worksite in Katy, continuing a history of workplace safety failures that includes eight OSHA citations for not providing required protective systems after another worker fatality in January 2007.

"Hurtado Construction has routinely ignored its legal responsibility to protect employees' safety and health," explained OSHA Area Director Larissa Ipsen in Houston. "The company's callous disregard has cost a young man his life and left his family, friends and co-workers to grieve a terrible tragedy under circumstances that were completely preventable."

OSHA issued the company one willful citation for allowing employees to work in a trench without adequate protections. The agency also issued five serious citations for Hurtado's failures to do the following:

  • Having someone available to render first aid at the Fulshear site.
  • Providing a ladder for a quick escape.
  • Making employees work in an excavation saturated with water.
  • Improperly using a reinforced concrete box as a protective system during excavation work.

Hurtado Construction Co. faces $257,811 in proposed penalties for its violations. Headquartered in Richmond, Hurtado Construction provides water, sewer and stormwater line installations and repair.

Workplace deaths related to excavation and trenching operations have risen significantly, from 15 worker fatalities in 2021 to 40 worker fatalities in 2022.

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.

Learn about trenching and excavation safety.

Learn more about OSHA.

 

Media Contacts:

Juan J. Rodríguez, 972-850-4709, rodriguez.juan@dol.gov
Chauntra Rideaux, 972-850-4710, rideaux.chauntra.d@dol.gov

Release Number: 24-461-DAL