By Stephen Wagner
Back on October 24th in 2013, a construction accident on SW Drake in Lee’s Summit left one man dead. A plumber installing a sewer line in a house under construction was buried when the trench collapsed. Units from Lee’s Summit Fire Department and the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Unit, as well as Central Jackson County Fire Protection District labored to recover the victim, Brian D. Allen aged 49.
The victim was located at the bottom of a 15-17 foot trench the following day, just over twenty four hours after the collapse.
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the incident.
OSHA has cited Larry Strate Plumbing and Heating for five violations:
1. Provide a safe means of egress from a trench
2. Protect workers in a trench from the trench collapsing
3. Ensure equipment and soil piles are maintained at least two feet from a trench
4. Inspect trenches daily, prior to each shift and after, to ensure stability
5. Train workers to recognize hazards associated with trenches
OSHA requirements on trenching and excavation require that all excavations five feet or more be protected from collapse. In the 1980’s OSHA implemented a national emphasis program for trenching and excavation.
Barbara Theriot, OSHA’s Area Director in Kansas City Missouri stated "This was a tragic incident that may have been prevented with the installation of trench protection and with additional employee training. Trenching hazards result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. Companies specializing in this type of work have a responsibility to protect their workers from known hazards."
OSHA rules allow Larry Strate Plumbing and Heating 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA Area Director Theriot, or contest the citations and the proposed fine of $35,000 before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Missouri is one of 23 states that has no independent standards on trenching and excavation safety, hence the federal investigation.