ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'Serial violator:' OSHA cites Sioux Falls contractor twice, adding to dozen citations over past decade

The most recent complaints stem from two inspections in 2021, where OSHA says workers in Tea and Salem were at risk of being buried by thousands of pounds of dirt.

City of Mitchell workers lay down sewer drainage pipes along Pheasant Street in this 2015 photo in Mitchell. Wastewater projects are a priority for municipalities around South Dakota, but paying for them has proven to be much tougher. (Republic file photo)
This 2015 file photo pictures a city of Mitchell worker laying sewer drainage pipes in a trench. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited H&W Contracting, of Sioux Falls, for placing workers at risk of trench collapses.
Mitchell Republic file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A Sioux Falls contracting company is in hot water with federal safety inspectors after they were cited for willful safety violations at two separate job sites in a span of seven days.

Federal workplace safety inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration say H&W Contracting, of Sioux Falls, willfully placed workers at risk of being buried under thousands of pounds of soil while they worked in unprotected trenches at two locations in Tea and Salem.

On Nov. 16, 2021, OSHA inspectors responded to a complaint and allege they found H&W Contracting workers in an unprotected trench in Tea as they installed a 6-inch waterline to a fire hydrant at 271st Street and Kerslake Place.

In Tea, the company also failed to protect gas, electric, water and communications systems from struck-by or other hazards and did not extend a ladder three feet above the edge of the excavation to allow for safe egress from the trench.

Six days later, another complaint led OSHA to open a second inspection, where they say inspectors discovered that company employees were working in five separate unprotected trenches as they replaced storm sewers in Salem.

ADVERTISEMENT

In both inspections, OSHA reported that H&W Contracting failed to install trench protection systems and that a competent person failed to remove workers from hazardous situations.

“Each site had a different foreman, different crew members and a different scope of work. The common thread is H&W Contracting’s continued failure to protect its workers,” said OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls. “Trench collapses are among the construction industry’s most deadly hazards. Workers caught when thousands of pounds of loose soil and rocks pour on and around them often suffer serious injuries or worse. H&W Contracting must change the way it operates before disaster strikes.”

After the November inspections, the agency identified one willful and three serious violations and proposed $122,838 in penalties from the Tea location and one willful violation with proposed penalties of $95,718 for the Salem location.

Specific citation information is not currently available on OSHA's database.

OSHA poster
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration shared this informational poster regarding trench safety.
Poster courtesy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

In a press release, OSHA called H&W Contracting a "serial violator," adding that these discoveries are a continuation of the company's “history of disregarding the serious and often fatal dangers” associated with working in an unprotected trench and federal law.

Over the past decade, the company has been issued a dozen other citations during inspections that focused mostly on trenches. Of those 12 citations, nine were settled formally, while three were settled informally.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, from 2011-2018, 166 workers had died in trench collapses. In 2019, OSHA notes at least 24 workers died while working on trenching and excavation projects.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations . Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet , and soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter.

ADVERTISEMENT

OSHA’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a safety video.

Related Topics: CONSTRUCTION
Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
What to read next
The North Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
With Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy by his side, Vargo successfully argued against Ravnsborg and his counsel, Sioux Falls attorney Mike Butler and impeachment defense expert Ross Garber.
While the updated policy provides institutions with the flexibility to expand alcohol sales, events must meet specific criteria.
The Cowbot would be a way to mow down thistles as a way to control the spread of weeds, "like a Roomba for a pasture," says Eric Buchanan, a renewable energy scientist at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, Minnesota.