Cal/OSHA Cites Empire Equipment Services After Trench Fatality

Company previously was cited for exposing workers to trenching hazards.

Riverside, Calif.-based Empire Equipment Services is facing $66,000 in serious workplace safety violations after a trench collapse killed a worker.

On May 9, two Empire Equipment Services employees were installing sewer pipes at a Lake Forest residential construction site when a 30-foot-wide section of the trench’s sidewall sloughed and collapsed. One worker was able to escape,and the other died after becoming trapped.

“Because working in excavations is so dangerous, a competent person must conduct thorough visual and manual tests to properly classify the soil and adequately protect employees from cave-ins,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, in a statement. “Failing to carry out these requirements can be fatal.”

The agency discovered that Empire Equipment Services Inc. did not properly classify the soil and failed to correctly slope the excavation. The investigation into the incident also determined that the company failed to ensure the site was inspected by someone who was deemed competent and familiar with trench hazards, soil classification and the appropriate safety requirements. The soil at the worksite was unstable, requiring an adequate protective system, according to Cal/OSHA.      

The trench collapse resulted in two serious accident-related violations and one general violation for a total of $66,000 in proposed penalties..

One of the violations was classified as a repeat of an August 2017 violation Empire received after Cal/OSHA found the company exposed its workers to serious hazards while working in a trench deeper than 5 ft. without properly sloping or installing any adequate protective systems. Empire had to pay $24,670 for that citation.



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