Trench Collapse Could Result In Jail Time For Owner

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Just over a week ago, a 19-year-old man working for Principal Services Limited, a trenching and excavation contractor, died in a trench collapse incident just northwest of Houston. According to the Cy-Fair Fire Department, the deceased worker had entered a 16-foot deep unprotected trench to install a sewer system when the trench caved in on him.
Coworkers attempted to retrieve the buried man while emergency services were summoned, but after 20 minutes the rescue attempt changed to a recovery operation.
OSHA investigators are investigating the incident and will likely issue at least one willful citation along with whatever other violations inspectors can find in the wake of this tragedy. With the combination of a fatality and a likely willful citation from OSHA, chances have greatly increased for one or more of the company’s partners to be sentenced to jail time.
On December 5, 2013, one man was killed in Cypress by a 10-foot trench collapse just 10 minutes after he entered the unprotected trench.  As a result of that investigation, OSHA issued a willful citation and financial penalties, but OSHA now has more arrows in its quiver to use against employers who allegedly turn a blind eye to safety (see our article “HR Manager In Charge of Safety Sentenced To Prison”).
OSHA has now adopted the procedure of referring cases to the Department of Justice when a fatality and willful citation were involved in an incident.  It is believed a much greater rate of business leaders will be incarcerated in a continuing effort to utilize poster child tactics to bring safety to a more visible and active position in operations that would otherwise find no use for it.

Safety First Consulting helps businesses identify OSHA compliance deficiencies in their workplaces for less than the cost of one OSHA penalty, and can manage safety programs for businesses for less than half the cost of hiring a full time Safety Manager. In addition to offering custom written safety programs for companies, Safety First Consulting provides required safety training, industrial hygiene sampling, noise sampling, and workplace inspections.

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