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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Arrow Plumbing LLC, Blue Springs, Missouri, for the death of 33-year-old Donald "D.J." Meyer and for allegedly failing to take steps to prevent other employees from dying the same way, the Kansas City Star reported.
A month after Meyer died while working in an unprotected trench, OSHA inspectors found another employee of the same Missouri plumbing contractor working in a similarly unprotected trench at another job site.
OSHA determined that, in both cases, Arrow Plumbing failed to provide basic safeguards to prevent trench collapse and did not train its employees to recognize and avoid cave-in and other hazards.
OSHA cited Arrow Plumbing for six willful and eight serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed $714,142 in penalties.
OSHA opened its first investigation of Arrow Plumbing after Meyer died last Dec. 15, when a 12-foot trench collapsed at a home construction site in Belton, Misssouri. A second investigation followed on Jan. 20, at a Kansas City work site where inspectors found the contractor’s employees working in an unprotected trench at another residential work site. No employees were injured there.
OSHA found similar violations at both work sites, and they included the company’s failure to install a support system to protect employees in an approximate 12-foot-deep trench from caving-in; training workers on how to identify hazards in trenching and excavation work, and providing a ladder at all times so employees could leave a trench.
Less than half of Arrow's fine was for the four serious and three willful violations of workplace safety rules that the safety agency said occurred on the Belton job site.
Agency officials said the main rule Arrow broke was its failure to provide a trench box or other shoring that would likely have prevented the cave-in. Another cited deficiency was the lack of any training in trench safety.
The rest of the fine was levied for the same number of serious and willful violations found at a second work site. The company is appealing the fines, and Arrow is still operating.
Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry. In 2016, OSHA received reports of 23 deaths and 12 injuries nationwide in trench and excavation operations. In the first five months of 2017, 15 deaths and 19 injuries have been reported nationwide.
OSHA provides the construction industry and others with guidance on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of trench. An e-tool covering safety procedures is available here.