US Labor Department cites Macon plumbing contractor, proposes $308K in penalties for safety violations after worker suffered fatal injuries

Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. failed to ensure the safety of the 20-year-old worker

MACON, GA – Federal safety investigators concluded that a Macon plumbing company could have prevented a deadly trench collapse that killed a 20-year-old worker and sent another worker to the hospital by following required safety procedures.

Investigator with the US Department of LaborThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that on August 10, 2023, two Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. employees were installing sewer lines in a ditch when the side of the ditch collapsed. One worker suffered fatal injuries and another employee was hospitalized for multiple fractures sustained in the collapse.

OSHA cited the employer for two willful violations for failing to provide trench protection devices that met all specifications, recommendations, and limitations issued by the manufacturer; and failure to provide a safe means of exiting a ditch.

In addition, federal investigators have charged the employer with three serious violations for allowing employees to work in a trench with defective trench shields and without head protection and for failing to train employees to avoid hazards when working in a trench recognize and avoid.

OSHA suggested Fine of $308,125.

“This employer has more than 20 years of experience in excavation and therefore understands that the work they perform can be dangerous if safety protocols are ignored,” he said Joshua Turner, head of OSHA's Atlanta-East area office. “The tabular data of a trench shield includes specifications that determine whether the protection system can be used at certain depths and under certain conditions. This and other safety information is generally available to employers. If they ignore these simple methods, the death of a worker can be the tragic result.”

“Construction is a high-risk industry that encompasses a wide range of activities, including plumbing and utility work,” Turner said. “OSHA provides information, tools and resources to help those in the industry – whether employees or employers – identify, reduce and eliminate construction-related hazards.”

Pyles Plumbing and Utility Contractors Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or dispute the findings before the Independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Recently, OSHA announced increased statewide enforcement and additional oversight to support its statewide priority program to prevent injuries associated with trenching operations and excavation collapses. The agency's Trenching and excavation The website provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including: a video with tips for safe excavations. Among the industry's deadliest hazards was unsafe trenching, which resulted in 39 construction workers suffering fatal injuries in 2022.

“Employers in all sectors must not take the dangers associated with their profession for granted. OSHA is committed to enforcing standards that protect workers and prevent tragedies like this,” said Joshua Turner, area manager for the Atlanta-East Area Office. “However, employers also need to protect their employees. When incidents occur, employers must understand that OSHA will work diligently to investigate the cause in order to prevent future incidents from occurring.”

Employers can contact the agency about OSHA's compliance support resources and their free help to comply with OSHA standards.

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