New York contractor agrees to cease digging excavations, pay $135K in penalties, after 2020 fatal Long Island trench collapse
NEW YORK – A Long Island superstructure, foundation and concrete company will pay $135,612 in penalties stemming from the collapse of an approximately 30-foot deep trench in Oyster Bay that led to the deaths of two workers.
Following a January 2020 investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that RC Structures Inc. of Roslyn did not provide a protective system to prevent a trench collapse, and did not remove the employees from the trench after a competent person employed by the company had identified a cave-in hazard. OSHA also found the trench lacked an adequate ladder or other safe means of exit and that the company allowed stacked concrete and excavated materials to be stored at the trench’s edge.
In addition, employees working adjacent to and beneath an operating excavator lacked head protection, exposing them to struck-by hazards. OSHA cited RC Structures for willful and serious violations in July 2020. The company contested its citations to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
“A trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, crushing and burying workers in an instant. Amid such dangerous conditions, employers must follow all excavation safety requirements and remove employees to prevent tragedies like this,” said OSHA Long Island Area Director Kevin Sullivan in Westbury, New York.
RC Structures agreed to pay the penalties and certify that it will no longer dig excavations. The agreement also commits the company to do the following:
- Develop an excavation safety checklist to identify hazards and protective measures for work in excavations and ensure that a competent person on site will consult and complete the checklist whenever employees enter excavations.
- Engage a qualified professional safety and health consultant to conduct at least one on-site assessment of excavation safety while employees are performing work in an excavation.
- Provide company-wide training on ladder safety and hardhat use to its employees.
“No settlement can undo the collapse and its consequences, but it obligates this employer to corrective actions to enhance safe work in excavations and prevent future collapses, injuries and deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to enforcing workplace safety laws and achieving settlements designed to prevent hazards from recurring,” said regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York City.
OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation webpage includes resources to help protect workers in trenches and prevent trench cave-ins.
OSHA’s Long Island Area Office conducted the inspection. Trial Attorney Molly J. Theobald of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York negotiated the settlement agreement.
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 help 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.
Secretary of Labor v. R.C. Structures Inc.
OSHRC Docket No. 20-1190