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OSHA Regional News Brief
Region 8

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

Feb. 3, 2015

H & W Contracting exposes workers to dangerous trench cave-in hazards
OSHA cites 2 willful, 2 serious safety violations

Employer name: H & W Contracting, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Investigation site: Columbia and East Willow Streets, Harrisburg, South Dakota

On July 28, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Bismarck Area Office initiated an inspection under the National Emphasis Program on Trenching after witnessing workers exposed to trenching hazards.

Investigation findings: One employee was observed installing a storm sewer system in a trench approximately 10 feet deep. There were three employees on the jobsite. OSHA cited two willful citations for failing to provide cave-in protection and to remove employees from a hazardous trench. OSHA standards require the use of cave-in protection in a trench 5 feet or deeper.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Two serious violations were cited for failing to provide a safe means of egress from the trench and allowing water to accumulate in the trench. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or show have known exist.

Proposed Penalties: $47,740

Quote: "Unprotected trenches can become gravesites in seconds. Violations of OSHA's trench protection standards remain a pervasive condition in this industry and it needs to stop," said Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director in Bismarck. "H & W Contacting has been cited seven times in the past 10 years for these same violations and that is unacceptable."

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 North Aurora Area Office at 309-589-7033.

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Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-465-6699,
Rhonda Burke, 312-353-4807,

Release Number: 15-95-DAK

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