The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited two Rhode Island contractors after inspectors said the companies exposed employees to cave-in and struck-by hazards in a trench over the summer. 

“An unprotected trench can be an early grave,” said OSHA area director Robert Sestito. “While no collapse occurred in Warwick, the danger to these workers was real and imminent.”

According to the report, Reyes Landscaping Inc. and TRD Contracting LLC face $75,000 in penalties after failing to correct hazards identified by OSHA inspectors. 

Inspectors said when they arrived at a sewer installation site in July, employees were working in a trench between five and eight feet deep without cave-in protection. 

Inspectors found nobody with knowledge and authority to identify correct hazards inspected the trench before the employees began working. 

Inspectors noted employees did not have helmets, nor an adequate ladder. They were also found using a steel alloy chain sling that had not been inspected to lift objects. 

OSHA cited the companies with several serious violations after changes were not made five days after returning to the excavation site. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 trench collapse-related deaths were reported in 2019.

OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation outlines policies and procedures to help employers identify and reduce hazards related to trenching and excavation injuries.