BILLINGS, MT – A federal workplace safety investigation in July 2021 found a utility contractor in Montana exposed employees working in and around trenches to potentially deadly hazards.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined Mountain Power Construction failed to provide adequate protections from possible cave-in hazards for employees working in trenches, train its workers regarding excavation hazards, and have an experienced person monitor potential deadly workspaces regularly, as the law requires.
OSHA cited the company for five serious violations and one willful violation of workplace safety standards and proposed penalties totaling $173,787. The agency issued the willful citation because the employer failed to provide adequate protective systems designed to protect employees from cave-ins while working in trenches, as covered by OSHA’s trenching standards.
“Mountain Power Construction placed its employees at risk of death or serious physical harm by disregarding basic safety requirements and preventive measures,” said OSHA Area Director Arthur Hazen in Billings, Montana. “Without these necessary protections in place, a trench can become an early grave for workers. Ignoring OSHA standards is never an option and we have an obligation to hold employers accountable when they don’t.”
Despite widespread prevention efforts by the federal and state agencies, labor unions, employers and other industry stakeholders, trench collapses continue to be one of the leading causes of injury and deaths in the construction industry. OSHA has a wide-range of resources to help reduce and prevent trenching hazards.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Based in Post Falls, Idaho, Mountain Power Construction is a full service contractor providing transmission, distribution, substation, overhead and underground services to the power line utility industry.
OSHA has made preventing trenching and excavation hazards an agency priority and provides vital information on hazards and necessary safeguards involving trenches and excavations.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.