DALLAS – A federal investigation has determined that a Frisco utility contractor failed to follow required workplace safety standards when it allowed two workers to enter a trench with no protection system. The workers were digging the trench to repair a main sewer line. The trench collapsed and fatally engulfed one employee. The second worker was fortunate to escape.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators responded to an employer-reported fatality at a residential construction site in McKinney on June 24, 2022, and found that  Bandera Utility Contractors Inc. willfully violated federal law when it failed to have a trench protective system in place. The employer also used a damaged ladder that did not extend 3 feet above ground level as per OSHA standards. Additionally, Bandera Utility failed to inspect the trench at the start of each shift before allowing employees to work in the excavation. OSHA has proposed penalties of $165,952.

“Bandera Utility Contractor Inc. ignored federal safety requirements and sent these workers into an unprotected trench. Now, a worker’s family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve this tragic, and avoidable, loss,” said OSHA Area Director Basil Singh in Dallas, Texas. “Incidents like this are inexcusable and can be avoided by following well-established processes that comply with OSHA standards.”

By most estimates, one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds – about the weight of a subcompact car – and trench collapses happen in seconds, which helps explain why they are among the construction industry’s most lethal dangers.

Through the end of November 2022, OSHA reports 35 workers died in trenching and excavation work, more than double the number in all of 2021. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports trench collapses claimed the lives of 166 workers between 2011 and 2018.

Federal trenching safety standards require protective systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet, 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.

 Based in Frisco, Bandera Utility Contractors Inc. employs 130 workers who provide underground utility services focused on managing projects for developers and municipalities across Texas. The company’s primary services include storm sewer, water, sanitary sewer and duct banks for residential and commercial projects in Texas.

Bandera Utility Contractors 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’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a safety video.                                                      

Learn more about OSHA.

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