OSHA alleges Missouri plumbing contractor exposed worker to unprotected trench despite agreement to implement trench safety program
OAK GROVE, MO – Barely two years after Arrow Plumbing LLC agreed to adopt a comprehensive trench safety program following the December 2016 death of an employee in an unprotected trench, federal inspectors responding to a complaint in August 2020 found another of the company’s employees working at least 7-feet below ground in an unprotected trench in Grain Valley.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the Oak Grove contractor for two repeated and two serious violations of trenching standards, and proposed total penalties of $299,590. OSHA alleges the contractor failed to provide basic safeguards against trench collapse, such as a trench box or shoring material, and exposed an employee working in a trench to unsecured electrical and gas lines. The agency also alleges the company allowed an employee to work in a trench without head protection while exposed to overhead struck-by hazards. .
“After a fatal trench collapse led to an employee’s death, Arrow Plumbing’s owner signed a settlement agreement with OSHA in September 2018, in which he agreed to put in place a comprehensive trench safety program,” explained OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille, in Kansas City. “Yet, Arrow Plumbing failed to implement the agreement. Employers must follow appropriate trench safety procedures and protect workers from the serious and sometimes fatal dangers of working in unprotected trenches.”
From 2011-2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 166 workers died in trench collapses. In 2019, OSHA reports at least 24 workers died while working on trenching and excavation projects.
OSHA investigators also allege Arrow Plumbing failed to comply with the terms of a stipulation and settlement agreement entered before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in 2018. The agreement required the company to hire a safety consultant to design and implement a trench safety program, and ensure employees complete OSHA construction, and trenching and excavation training courses. The company also failed to pay a negotiated civil monetary penalty of $225,000.
Trenching standards require the use of protective systems in trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of trench.
To raise awareness of OSHA safety standards, the agency has partnered with the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) and will participate in Trench Safety Stand-Down Week, June 14-18, 2021, to educate employers and workers to ensure they are taking all available precautions. NUCA is requesting all contractors, municipalities, military and others involved with trenching operations to hold a stand-down.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. Learn more about OSHA.