Just over a week ago, a 19-year-old man working for Principal Services Limited, a trenching and excavation contractor, died in a trench collapse incident just northwest of Houston. According to the Cy-Fair Fire Department, the deceased worker had entered a 16-foot deep unprotected trench to install a sewer system when the trench caved in on him.
Coworkers attempted to retrieve the buried man while emergency services were summoned, but after 20 minutes the rescue attempt changed to a recovery operation.
OSHA investigators are investigating the incident and will likely issue at least one willful citation along with whatever other violations inspectors can find in the wake of this tragedy. Beginning in January, the combination of a fatality and a willful citation from OSHA, has greatly increased the chances of one or more of the company's partners to be threatened with jail time.
Déjà vu All Over Again
In December, another man was killed in Cypress, Texas by a 10-foot trench collapse just 10 minutes after he entered the unprotected trench. As a result of that investigation, OSHA issued a willful citation and financial penalties, but OSHA now has more arrows in its quiver to use against employers who allegedly turn a blind eye to safety.
OSHA's New Tactics
OSHA now can refer cases to the Department of Justice when a fatality and willful citation are involved in an incident. It is believed more business leaders will be threatened with actual jail time when OHSA uses "poster child" tactics to publicize serious accidents.