SIOUX FALLS, SD ‒ Employees working for the same local contractor at two different Sioux Falls locations avoided tragedy after facing potentially deadly electrocution and trench cave-in hazards.
On Aug. 18, 2022, inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an inspection near the intersection of 57th Street and South Mellenberndt Place after learning a work crew employed by Siteworks Inc. of Sioux Falls had struck an overhead power line while digging trenches to install storm sewer lines. OSHA determined the company failed to take required steps to protect employees working near energized electrical powerlines from dangerous electric shock.
A day later, OSHA inspectors observed a Siteworks employee installing water lines while they worked in an unprotected trench at 41st Street and Valleyview Road. Inspectors found Siteworks failed to protect workers as required against trench collapses and cave-ins – which claimed the lives of 39 workers in 2022 – when thousands of pounds of soil can bury or crush workers in seconds.
OSHA determined Siteworks Inc. failed to protect its work crews at both sites from known hazards as they replaced municipal sewer and water lines. The agency issued two violations, one willful and one serious, and proposed $85,005 in penalties.
“To understand Siteworks Inc.’s serious disregard for their employees’ safety, consider they narrowly avoided a group of workers being electrocuted on Thursday and left another worker unprotected from the deadly risk of trench collapse on Friday,” explained OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “We will not tolerate the brazen willingness of this employer to endanger their workers and will hold them accountable for their inactions. Siteworks has provided excavation services for more the 25 years and is well aware of industry and OSHA safety requirements.”
Siteworks Inc. – previously known as Siteworks LLC – provides construction services, including grading and land development, site grading and preparation, excavation, and demolition and installation of underground sewer, water and wastewater systems in Sioux Falls and the surrounding areas.
“Contractors who continually ignore safety requirements are gambling with their workers’ lives in return for a profit,” Stanley added. “Federal workplace safety regulations and industry-recognized methods are intended to keep workers safe and make sure they are able to safely finish their day’s work and return home.”
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 competent 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.
Each June, the National Utility Contractors Association recognizes Trench Safety Month. OSHA collaborates with the association for “Trench Safety Stand-Downs” throughout the month.
OSHA’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions. including a safety video.
Learn more about OSHA.