News Release

US Labor Department cites Macon plumbing contractor, proposes $308K in penalties for safety violations after worker suffered fatal injuries

Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. failed to ensure 20-year-old worker’s safety

MACON, GA – Federal safety investigators found a Macon plumbing contractor could have prevented a fatal trench collapse -- that claimed the life of a 20-year-old worker and hospitalized another worker -- by following required safety procedures. 

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that on Aug. 10, 2023, two Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. employees were installing sewer-line piping in a trench when the trench’s side collapsed. One worker suffered fatal injuries, and another employee was hospitalized due to several fractures sustained in the cave-in.

OSHA cited the employer for two willful violations for not providing trench shields that were in accordance with all specifications, recommendations and limitations issued by the manufacturer; and neglecting to put in place a safe means to exit a trench box. 

In addition, federal investigators cited the employer for three serious violations for allowing employees to work inside a trench with defective trench shields, and without head protection, and for failing to train employees to recognize and avoid hazards while working inside a trench.

OSHA has proposed $308,125 in penalties

“This employer has over 20 years of experience in excavation, so they are well aware that that the work they do can be dangerous if safety protocols are disregarded,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Office Director Joshua Turner. “A trench shield’s tabulated data includes specifications that dictate whether the protective system can be used at certain depths and under specific conditions. This and other safety information is widely available to employers. When they choose to ignore these simple methods, a worker’s death can be the tragic result.”

“Construction is a high hazard industry that comprises a wide range of activities, including plumbing and utility work,” said Turner. “OSHA offers information, tools, and resources designed to assist those in the industry - whether worker or employer - to identify, reduce, and eliminate construction-related hazards.”

Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

Recently, OSHA announced enhanced nationwide enforcement and additional oversight to support its national emphasis program on preventing injuries related to trenching and excavation collapses. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a video on tips for safe excavations. Among the industry's most lethal hazards, unsafe trenching led to 39 construction workers suffering fatal injuries in 2022.

“Employers of all industries must not take for granted the dangers associated with their trades. OSHA strives to enforce standards that protect workers and prevent tragedies like this one,” said Joshua Turner, Area Director of the Atlanta-East Area Office. “However, employers must step up to protect their workers, too. When incidents do occur, employers need to be aware that OSHA will be relentless in determining the cause to prevent future incidents from occurring.”

Employers can contact the agency about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and its free help for complying with OSHA standards.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration
February 29, 2024
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Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
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