Investigation of deadly trench collapse finds Colorado company exposed workers to excavation hazards in Johnstown
DENVER – A federal workplace safety investigation that followed a deadly trench collapse in Johnstown on April 16 has concluded a Strasburg excavation contractor failed to take required safety precautions that might have prevented the death of a 50-year-old worker.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Dunaway Excavating Inc. allowed employees to work in a 16-foot deep trench amid accumulating water and without protective systems. OSHA inspectors responded to the collapse after one of two workers in the trench became stuck in mud under water.
OSHA cited Dunaway Excavating for two willful serious violations for failing to protect workers from accumulating water, not using protective systems, such as a trench box. Additionally, the company was cited for failing to ensure workers had a secure way to exit the trench safely.
The company faces $208,543 in proposed penalties. OSHA has placed Dunaway Excavating in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“The threat of trench collapses makes excavation work among the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry,” said OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. “This worker’s life and family’s grief could have been spared if required precautions been taken.”
In 2019, trench collapses caused 24 deaths in the construction industry, according to the most recent data from Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA’s national emphasis program on trenching and excavations encourages employers to develop and implement safety procedures and train their workers on recognizing potentially hazardous situations. Learn more about trenching and excavation safety.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of 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.