OSHA Investigates Fatal Trench Collapse

  • Editorial Team
  • News
  • 20 October 2023

In a tragic incident on May 18th in McAlester, an excavation site turned deadly as a project manager and other workers found themselves in a terrible situation within a 10-foot-deep trench filled with water. The outcome of this incident has prompted a thorough investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The consequences are dire for the Oklahoma contractor involved, as they now face substantial proposed penalties totaling $82,149.

The Incident

On that unfortunate day in May, a project manager and fellow workers were engaged in an excavation project. Their task involved placing gravel around a recently replaced 24-inch sewer line. As it was, the conditions within the trench became really bad, leading to a catastrophic outcome.

OSHA’s Findings

The investigation conducted by OSHA revealed a series of critical violations that contributed to the tragic incident. These findings have serious implications for the contractor involved.

Willful Violation

Failure to Provide Cave-in Protection

The proposed penalty is of $62,504.

A willful violation occurs when an employer knowingly fails to comply with a legal requirement or exhibits indifference to employee safety.

Serious Violations

Failure to Conduct Daily Trench Inspections

Proposed Penalty of $6,250.

Failure to Protect Workers from Water Hazards

Proposed Penalty of $4,465

Failure to Provide Safe Trench Exit

Proposed Penalty of $4,465

Failure to Remove Struck-by Hazards

Proposed Penalty of $4,465

A serious violation exists when workplace hazards could lead to accidents or illnesses likely resulting in death or serious physical harm unless the employer was unaware of the violation.

These violations tell us about the lack of safety measures and protocols that were in place at the excavation site.

Potential Repercussions for the Contractor

OSHA Area Director Steven Kirby in Oklahoma City has expressed his concern regarding the incident, emphasizing that the contractor, Rocking L Dozer and Land Management, failed in its responsibility to ensure employee safety. The penalties that are imposed are quite big, reflecting the severity of the violations.

Rocking L now has the option to appeal these violations and penalties within 15 business days. The outcome of this appeal will also impact the contractor’s future operations and reputation.

Company’s Previous OSHA Record

According to OSHA records, they had previously faced citations for workers not wearing hard hats while working in an excavation in Marble City in March. The penalty for this violation amounted to $501, indicating a prior lapse in safety compliance.