OSHA: Meridian Contractor Failed to Protect Workers in Deadly Boise Trench Collapse 

click to enlarge RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
Federal investigators announced Oct. 4 they have lodged four citations against a Meridian-based contractor—three "serious" citations and a fourth "willful" citation—in connection with the May 3 trench collapse that killed two workers and seriously injured a third.

The bottom line from the investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration: the contractor could have prevented the deaths "if the company had not allowed federal safety standards to be ignored."  

The company, Hard Rock Construction, was assessed penalties of $77,319.

“The tragic loss of these men’s lives and serious injuries suffered by their co-worker were preventable—which makes this incident even more tragic,” said David Kearns, area director of OSHA’s Boise office. “Our investigation found Hard Rock Construction made almost no effort to protect its workers, or even to understand the right ways to avoid the common hazards in this line of work. Hiring workers and assuming they know how to protect themselves is a sure path to tragedy.”

Hard Rock, which employs about 24 workers in excavation, grading and underground utility installation, has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings.

On May 3, emergency crews rushed to the scene of a northwest Boise neighborhood, where three workers had been buried under dirt and sand when the trench they were working in collapsed. One of the workers was rescued and rushed to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. The other two men—Bert Smith Jr., 36, of Caldwell, and Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata, 26, of Nampa—were killed. The Ada County coroner said both men died of mechanical asphyxia due to compression. 

OSHA inspectors found Hard Rock "failed to provide cave-in protection systems or a ladder to enter or exit the trench, did not have a competent person conducting inspections, and failed to train its employees on the hazards and dangers of working in trenches."

Read the full citations here.
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