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Region 4 News Release:   USDOL: 02-64
Thurs., April 19, 2002
Contact: Lorette Post          Roberto Sanchez
Phone: (404) 562-2078      (205) 731 ext. 0

Fatal Trench Cave-In Brings Alabama Company $99,000
In OSHA Fines

FORESTDALE, Ala. -- Failing to protect workers from a possible trench collapse may cost Bessemer, Ala.-based waterproofing contractor Jeff Reid $99,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On Jan. 14, three laborers Reid hired for the day were excavating a trench around a Forestdale residence in preparation for waterproofing the basement walls. When the nine-foot deep, three-foot wide unprotected trench collapsed, two workers escaped but the third was buried and suffocated before he could be rescued.

"Placing workers in harm's way by allowing them to enter an excavation without protection against a treacherous cave-in shows plain indifference to employee safety and OSHA standards," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director.

Following an inspection of the fatality, OSHA cited Jeff Reid with one alleged willful safety violation and proposed a penalty of $63,000 for failing to shore or slope trench walls or otherwise protect employees from potential injury or death while working in an excavation.

"Like many construction companies, Jeff Reid frequently hired Spanish speaking day laborers," said Sanchez. "Employers have a responsibility to provide these workers a safe work environment and training they can understand," said Sanchez. The area director pointed out that Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, recognizing the risks posed by a language barrier, recently announced special initiatives aimed at improving safety and health for the rapidly expanding Hispanic workforce.

Five serious citations, with penalties totaling $31,500, were issued for additional violations of trench safety standards. These included failing to train workers, many of whom were day laborers, in excavation safety; not providing head protection; no safe means of entering and exiting the trench; failing to move excavated material a safe distance from the edge of the trench, and not assuring that a competent person inspected the excavation.

Because the employer failed to report the fatality to OSHA within the required eight-hours, a further penalty of $4,500 was imposed.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. Jeff Reid has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties.

The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Birmingham area office located at Vestavia Village, 2047 Canyon Rd., Birmingham, Ala. 35216; telephone: 205-731-1534.

U.S. Labor Department news releases are accessible on the Internet at The information in this release will be made available in alternative format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202-693-7773 or TTY 202-693-7755.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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