On August 25, The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it had cited a South Dakota business for failing to protect workers from trench collapse hazards. First Dakota Enterprises Inc. now faces proposed penalties of $95,064. On May 23, 2017, a 34-year-old worker with the company was buried when the walls of a 14-foot trench collapsed around him. The individual’s co-workers quickly freed the worker’s head, giving him plenty of room to breathe.
Emergency personnel took more than 30 minutes to free the individual. After an investigation, OSHA investigators determined that First Dakota Enterprises had failed to use an appropriate trench protective system to protect its workers. OSHA also determined that the company did not correct possible hazardous conditions.
OSHA subsequently cited the company for two repeat violations and a single serious safety violation. At the time, First Dakota Enterprises had been hired by the City of Emery to replace main sewer and water lines. According to OSHA, trench collapses are one of the most dangerous hazards in construction. As of June 1, 2017, a total of 15 workers have lost their lives due to trench collapses. In 2016, trench and excavation operations resulted in 23 deaths.