A federal investigation has found that a contractor’s failure to provide legally required safeguards and make sure they were in place to prevent trench collapses contributed to the 2022 death of an employee who was buried when an 8-foot-deep trench caved in.
Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that Botticello Inc. exposed a worker to deadly hazards as he connected drainage piping at a residential development construction site. Previously, in November 2015, OSHA inspectors had identified four serious violations related to trenching work by Botticello Inc. at a different worksite.
“This deadly cave-in and the worker’s death should never have happened,” said OSHA Area Director Dale Varney in Hartford, Connecticut. “After a previous OSHA inspection, Botticello Inc. knew of the dangers of working in an unprotected trench and the need to inspect the trench and ensure required effective cave-in protection was in place before any employee entered the trench. The company, however, still chose to ignore these required safeguards and now a worker’s family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve.”
Specifically, OSHA found that Botticello Inc. failed to:
- Provide the trench with a protective system to prevent it from collapsing and caving in on workers.
- Have a competent person conduct inspections before and during the work to identify and correct any hazardous conditions before employees entered the trench.
- Ensure the 135-foot-long trench contained sufficient means of egress to allow employees to safely exit.
As a result of the violations and the employer’s prior knowledge, OSHA cited Botticello Inc. for three willful violations and proposed $375,021 in penalties.
Federal safety standards require protective systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials be kept at least 2 feet from the trench’s edge. Trenches must also be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entry and exit before a worker may enter.
Family owned Botticello Inc. provides construction contracting services including site work, rock crushing, stump grinding and demolition.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the 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.