Texas Contractor Faces $258K in Penalties After Fatal Trench Collapse

Me Photo Headshot
backhoe shovel down in trench
A worker was operating a compactor in the 25-foot-deep trench when it caved in.
Getty Images

A Houston area contractor faces proposed penalties of $257,822, including repeat violations, after a worker died in a trench collapse last year, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Two employees of R. Construction Civil LLC, which is based in Buffalo, Texas, were in a 25-foot-deep trench October 26, 2022, near Manvel, Texas. One of them was operating a gas-powered vibratory compactor to compact soil covering previously installed sewer lines, OSHA reports. The trench collapsed, and the 62-year-old employee operating the compactor was pinned against the compactor and died. He was one of 39 workers who died in trenches or excavations in 2022, the deadliest year for workers in trenches since 2005.

OSHA issued two repeat violations, and one serious violation for not inspecting the trench daily. The repeat violations were for not having adequate cave-in protection, having spoil piles less than 2 feet from the edge of the trench and having no means to safely exit the trench.

Previous violations had occurred at a site in Dickinson, Texas, on November 10, 2020, for inadequate cave-in protection and spoil pile less than 2 feet from the edge. R Construction Civil was fined $27,740 in penalties, reduced from $68,704, according to OSHA online records.

The company was also cited for violations found August 7, 2019, at a site in Katy, Texas, for no safe way to exit a trench. The company was fined $18,260, reduced from $29,174.    

R Construction Civil has 15 days to appeal the latest OSHA penalties. The heavy civil construction company performs water, sewage, drainage and site work. The company also has locations in Houston and Floresville.

“R Construction Civil LLC failed to meet its legal responsibility and it cost a worker their life,” said OSHA Area Director Mark Briggs in Houston. “The company could have prevented this tragedy by following well-known safety measures meant to protect workers from this very hazard.”