The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Texas contractor Hurtado Construction Co. March 15 after an 18-year-old worker was killed in a trench collapse last September. OSHA proposed $257,811 in fines.

The employee, who OSHA did not name, was working in a 12-ft-deep trench for a water and sewer line installation on Sept. 15 in Fulshear, Texas. While the employee was installing geotextile fabric to a reinforced concrete pipe joint at 4:09 p.m., a side wall of the trench collapsed on him. Tons of dirt trapped him between the pipe and a reinforced concrete box, and he died from crushing injuries and asphyxiation, OSHA records show. 

OSHA issued one willful citation and six serious citations to Brookshire, Texas-based Hurtado. Officials say the contractor failed to have someone available to render first aid at the worksite, did not provide a ladder for quick escape, made employees work in a trench where water was accumulating and the soil was saturated, improperly used a reinforced concrete box as a protective system outside the manufacturer’s specifications, failed to install shields flush with the trench walls and exposed employees to cave-in hazards. 

Hurtado did not return calls from ENR about the incident. 

Larissa Ipsen, OSHA area director in Houston, said in a statement that Hurtado “has routinely ignored its legal responsibility to protect employees’ safety and health.”

“The company’s callous disregard has cost a young man his life and left his family, friends and coworkers to grieve a terrible tragedy under circumstances that were completely preventable,” Ipsen said. 

OSHA has cited Hurtado on at least five other occasions since 2015, records show. Most recently before this, inspectors said they found Hurtado failing to use adequate protection against collapse in November 2021 at an excavation in Katy, Texas. 

Officials said another Hurtado employee was killed in January 2007 when a coworker began backfilling an excavation while the employee was still in the trench. And in the years since, OSHA has cited the company after inspectors found employees working without proper precautions in excavations where water was accumulating and other hazards including a lack of cave-in protection and materials piled near a trench edge where they could fall and hit workers, records show.

After receiving the notice from OSHA, Hurtado has 15 days to either comply, request an informal conference or contest the findings.