The contracting company RC Structures Inc. of Roslyn, New York is facing consequences for the careless and negligent actions that led to the tragic death of two workers in a trench collapse in January 2020. The contractor was fined a whopping $135,612 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for the deadly trench collapse that occurred at an Upper Brookville site on Wolver Hollow Road. But it is now fair to ask, is that remotely close to an adequate penalty after the senseless and horrific death of two workers?
Workers Deniz Dos Santos Almeida, 57, and Max Antonio Turcios Chavez, 46, were employed by RC Structures to work on the installation of a septic tank. On January 28th, 2020, shortly before 5:00 p.m., the 30-foot trench on site collapsed, burying the two men in five to seven feet of mud and sand.
OSHA originally cited RC Structures in July 2020 for willful and serious violations. The company disputed these citations with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
More than one year after the accident, in March 2021, the Roslyn contractor agreed to pay the $135,000 fine and certified it will no longer dig excavations. The contractor faced a multitude of criticisms from OSHA for endangering their workers, ignoring a warning from an employee who had identified a cave-in risk, failing to provide a protective system to prevent a trench collapse, failure to provide an adequate means of exit from the trench, and allowing heavy concrete and other excavation materials to be stored on the trench’s edge. Additionally, employees who worked next to and beneath an operating excavator were reportedly working without proper head protection. These purposeful oversights placed the lives of all employees on this job site at great risk. Two employees at this construction site paid the ultimate price.
In a press release, OSHA’s Long Island director, Kevin Sullivan, explained “A trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, crushing and burying workers in an instant. Amid such dangerous conditions, employers must follow all excavation safety requirements and remove employees to prevent tragedies like this.”
In addition to paying penalties, RC Structures Inc. agreed to implement the following safety regulations:
- Develop a safety checklist to identify potential hazards on work sites
- Place a competent person on site to ensure this checklist is followed
- Hire a qualified safety and health consultant to conduct at least one on-site assessment of excavation safety
- Provide company-wide training on ladder safety and hard hat use
Will the threat of a fine and sanctions, like the ones imposed here, change the way construction site supervisors address safety issues? Safety concerns are often pitted against the monetary pressure to finish a job as soon as possible. Sadly, money usually prevails over the well-being of the average worker. What can be done to even this lopsided playing field? Strengthening the worker safety laws and affording agencies like OSHA far greater latitude in imposing more severe penalties may go a long way in protecting workers.
It is far too common for contracting companies to cut corners in regard to workplace safety. When important health and safety regulations are ignored on construction sites, the lives of hardworking laborers are put at risk. These potential injuries and deaths can be prevented if the proper rules and regulations are followed.
If you or a loved one were injured as a result of another party’s negligent actions, you may have a legal right to receive compensation. At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our skilled team of construction accident lawyers have extensive experience in obtaining compensation for accident victims. Our proven track record includes the following results for construction accident victims:
- $15,000,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the family of an HVAC technician who was crushed by a 28,000-pount chiller unit
- $5,500,000 settlement for a worker who was struck by a rotating excavator on a Nassau County construction site
- $2,100,000 settlement in a Queens case for a laborer who suffered spinal injuries in a trench collapse
To receive a free legal consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, please call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form online.