Dec 2021

Rhode Island Contractors Cited For Endangering Workers

construction trench collapse

Some construction work involves digging deep trenches to pour a foundation, install a sewer line, bury electrical conduit or lay down pipes. Employers are required to take specific safety precautions. When they don’t, there can be a construction accident that leaves workers seriously injured.

For example, the sidewalls of a trench need to be protected. If they aren’t, the trench can collapse and workers can be buried in soil and debris within seconds.

An OSHA inspection at a Warwick sewer installation site on July 8, 2021, found that area contractors had failed to follow federal standards for protecting the safety of workers digging trenches.

Violations found at work site

The inspectors determined that workers of Reyes Landscaping Inc. had been working in a five- to eight-foot deep trench without any protection against a cave-in. The contractor had also allowed soil to pile up at the trench’s edge, and some materials were falling back into the trench.

Reyes Landscaping Inc. does business as Reyes Landscaping & Masonry in Johnston and TRD Contracting LLC in Greenville.

Several hazards were identified, including:

  • The trench had not been inspected by a competent person before work started.
  • Employees did not have helmets.
  • The ladder used to enter and exit the trench was inadequate.
  • Objects were being lifted using an uninspected and unlabeled steel alloy chain.

OSHA returned to the site on July 13 but found that the hazards had not been corrected. Workers were still being exposed to the risk of cave-in and struck-by accidents as they worked in a trench that was now 9 feet, 6 inches deep.

Reyes Landscaping was cited for two willful and five serious violations, and the agency proposed $63,586 in penalties. TRD Contracting was cited for four serious violations, and the agency proposed $11,704 in penalties.

Fighting for injured workers

“An unprotected trench can be an early grave. While no collapse occurred in Warwick, the danger to these workers was real and imminent,” said OSHA Area Director Robert Sestito in Providence. He noted that a cubic yard of soil can weigh “as much as a small car.”

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 24 deaths caused by trench collapses in the construction industry in 2019.

Construction workers can be seriously injured in workplace accidents. Workers’ compensation benefits are supposed to pay for medical expenses and provide partial wages to help injured workers get by. But the process can be complicated. Claims can be disputed by employers and insurance carriers and are often denied. In some cases, a third-party injury claim is also needed for the injured worker to recover full compensation for their losses.

That’s why it’s important to have an experienced Rhode Island workers’ compensation lawyer on your side. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has been fighting for injured workers for decades. Our workplace injury attorneys know the laws and how the workers’ compensation system works. We build strong cases for compensation and fight for our clients through every step of the process.

We know that an injury from a workplace accident can affect you physically, emotionally, and financially. If you’ve been hurt on the job in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts,  learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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