US Department of Labor finds Colorado contractor exposing workers to trench cave-ins, including one that caused teenager’s fatal injuries
DENVER – When federal workplace safety inspectors opened an investigation in March 2023 of an excavation worksite in Fort Collins, they determined GoldStar Excavation and Sewer was still ignoring the same federal safety standards that could have prevented a trench collapse in Greeley in the summer of 2022 that led to the death of a teenaged company employee.
In that incident, a 17-year-old GoldStar worker suffered fatal injuries after being struck in the head by a large chunk of asphalt and a company foreman was injured on Aug. 13 when an unprotected section of the excavation wall caved-in on them. The employees were working on a residential sewer connection.
After an investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a serious citation to the Commerce City contractor for its violation of federal law, and proposed $15,625 in penalties, an amount set by law.
On March 8, 2023, OSHA opened another inspection of Goldstar after learning that employees were again exposed to trenching hazards on a project in Fort Collins. Among them was the foreman injured in August. The agency then cited the company with willful violations for exposing workers to cave-ins and failing to train workers to recognize trenching hazards.
Following the most recent inspection, GoldStar Excavation and Sewer faces $206,698 in proposed penalties and has been included in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“GoldStar Excavation and Sewer’s indifference toward the safety and well-being of its employees cost a young man his life,” said OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver. “With a teenager’s family and friends still grieving, the company again allowed its workers to enter an unprotected trench. GoldStar must comply with required federal safety standards designed to prevent another tragedy.”
Established in 2014, GoldStar Excavation and Sewer is a family owned and operated business that provides water line repair, replacements and installations, as well as sewer pipe lining services.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of citation 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.
OSHA has a National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter.