How did this construction work injury happen?
The trench collapsed in multiple stages. A worker was trapped under the trench after the initial collapse. Then an excavator operator and another worker stepped in to help. Immediately afterward, a second collapse occurred, trapping all three workers. The bulldozer operator managed to free himself and call for help. Eventually, workers and managers from three separate companies working on the site responded.
L&I claims that at least 9 people took turns going into the unprotected trench trying to pull out the buried workers. Tragically, the medical team pronounced the worker who jumped in first to help dead at the scene. However, they were able to rescue the trapped worker first and took him to Harborview Hospital. He sustained serious injuries but survived this horrible workplace accident.
The L&I Workplace Accident Report
More formally, according to Anne Soiza, deputy director in charge of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH): “This incident is heartbreaking and frustrating. This fatality and one worker’s hospitalization were completely preventable. Digging trenches to this depth, in the dead of winter after days of rain, on unstable ground with no trench box, it was a recipe for disaster.”
Consequently, based on its investigation, L&I concluded that several companies committed “blatant” security violations. Therefore, because of those violations, the companies have been found by L&I.
L&I fined companies involved in work-related death
RES System 3 LLC received the largest penalty. L&I fined the company a total of $360,874 for 8 security violations, some of which are willful, careless and very serious violations. Explicitly, violations include lack of cave-in protection, lack of a competent person trained in trench safety on site, and lack of a written safety program tailored to the project. In addition, they were cited for improper training, improper ladder extension, lack of means of exiting the trench, and improper ladder use and setup.
L&I issued a fine to RES America Construction Inc in the amount of $184,800 for 6 intentional and serious safety violations. Here, the violations included failing to ensure the subcontractor had and used cave-in protection, as well as failing to ensure the subcontractor had a written safety program tailored to the project. Additionally, there were further violations for not having a written project-tailored safety program for the company’s own employees, inadequate training programs, improper ladder extension, and improper ladder use and configuration.
Ultimately, GEMS was the contractor that provided medical services on site. L&I fined GEMS $4,200 for exposing two of its employees to hazards when they entered the trench unprotected.
This case is a very sad reminder that work can be dangerous and even deadly. We are fortunate to have a strong workers’ compensation system in the state of Washington. However, no amount of money can replace a lost life. As always, employers and workers must remain focused on creating and maintaining safe work environments.
This article was first published at https://recklaw.com/l-and-I-work-injury-death/