Company Fined for Cave-in that Killed Worker

April 2, 2002
Elan Allen started out his day planning a dinner for his wife's birthday. By the end of the day, he was dead, buried alive in a trench cave-in at a Texas construction site.

The day a workplace fatality occurs usually starts out like any other. A man or woman wakes up, gets dressed, shares a smile with family members, eats some breakfast, and goes off to work. What makes that day different, and what family members don''t know, is that is the last time they will see that loved one alive.

Elan Allan, of Grapevine, Tex., probably had a morning like that in February. Perhaps his was a little more joyous than normal, since he and his wife were celebrating her birthday later that evening. After making plans with his wife to meet her for dinner, he left for work at a construction site in Denton, Tex. By the end of the day, he was dead, buried alive in what investigators speculate was a trench cave-in.

Julie Ann Allen reported her husband missing on Feb. 22 when he failed to meet her for dinner. It took a week for Denton city workers, using an excavator, to find Allen''s body, which was standing upright in the trench, some 15 feet below the surface.

Mike Talmont, assistant area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that investigators could not determine if Allen was killed by a trench cave-in or if the dirt was dumped on him by construction workers who were unaware he was taking soil samples in the trench. The local coroner ruled the death accidental.

Allan was an employee of Reed Engineering Group, a Dallas engineering company, which faces up to $15,000 in fines for three alleged safety violations.

Ron Reed, the president of the company, refused to comment on the citations, which Talmont called "serious." The citations contend that Allan had not received proper training; that Reed did not provide cave-in protection; and that there was no "responsible" person on site to supervise Allan while he was working in the trench.

The Dallas company faces a maximum fine of $5,000 on each citation. OSHA will not issue citations against Lacy Construction of Dallas, the contractor on site.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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