Company in trench rescue has history of violations

Posted at 12:47 PM, Mar 15, 2017

After crews spent several hours rescuing a man in a trench, the U.S. Department of Labor confirms to KMTV OSHA’s office will look into Tuesday’s incident.

Drew Johnson, 23, was at a worksite near 130th Street and Hawthorne Court for Utility Trenching, Inc. when a wall collapsed while still inside a trench.

RELATED: Man rescued after trapped in trench near 130th St. and Hawthorne Court

In a phone interview, Scott Allen, a spokesperson for the U.S. Labor Department, also confirmed the company received prior violations from Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA.

It's imperative that any company doing trenching work ensures the safety of their workers, Scott says. From 2008 to 2012, Utility Trenching landed on OSHA’s radar four times.

The spokesperson could not go into the violation details, but said the company failed to comply to meet with "Specific Excavation Requirements” three times. Twice in 2008 – a $750 fine per citation.

A repeat violation in 2012, but with a $5,600 fine. Standards reveal trenches deeper than five feet must have shoring material, Allen says.

Officials say crews pulled Johnson out of a seven to eight foot trench.

The business also failed requirements for protective systems, which involves shoring trenches or inserting a trench box in a hole, Allen says.

“According to the violations that they received, it's indicative that they were not following on all OSHA's standards and regulations when working in a trench,” said the spokesperson.

Anytime we have a repeat violation with any company it raises a red flag, he said.

As for Tuesday’s incident, Allen would not comment on the trench rescue but OSHA was on scene.

Much like everyone else watching the event unfold, representatives were relieved when Johnson surfaced almost seven hours later.

Knowing how dangerous this line of work can be, Allen says this incident could have been a much more tragic story had Johnson lost his life due to the company's failure to follow OSHA's regulations.

With unknown variables surrounding the incident, Allen wants to make one thing clear: "The onus has to be on the employer to ensure that the workers are properly trained.”

Allen says it's too early to tell whether yesterday's incident failed to meet excavation standards.

An investigation is underway, which will take several months, he said. Utility Trenching declined to comment for this story.