DEDEDO, GUAM ‒ Two weeks after federal workplace safety inspectors warned the operator of a Tamuning construction company of hazardous conditions facing employees working in an excavation, they returned to find the company again exposing workers to potentially deadly trench hazards as they installed a sewer line at the Paradise Court subdivision in Mangilao.
The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Superman Corp. after a May 2023 inspection for two serious violations related to the company's failures to provide adequate means to enter and exit the trench within 25 feet of the workers and test oxygen levels in the trench before employees entered.
OSHA also cited the company with a willful violation after the agency determined Allen Kim, president of Superman Corp., failed to provide required protection from cave-ins for employees working in an excavation. Investigators learned Kim was trained previously on trenching and trench safety and had been warned repeatedly of related hazards by peers and engineers that visited the site before OSHA's inspection. In addition, Kim admitted to safety officers that he was aware that motorized equipment operating near the trench was causing debris to fall in the trench and that the equipment’s vibrations increased the risk of collapse.
Superman Corp. faces $73,219 in proposed penalties for the violations.
Demanding, Dangerous Work
"Working in a trench is demanding and dangerous work that requires specific precautions and protections to keep workers safe," explained OSHA Area Office Director Roger Forstner in Honolulu. "By running soil compactors and excavators within 20 feet of workers in the trench and failing to provide accessible ladders, Superman Corp. chose to put production before safety, endangering the lives of its employees."
Trench collapses are among the serious dangers in the construction industry. Excavations can collapse in seconds and can potentially bury workers under cubic yards of soil, each weighing as much as 3,000 lbs. In 2022, OSHA reported that at least 39 industry workers died. From 2011 to 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 166 workers died in trench collapses.
OSHA has a National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems in trenches deeper than 5 feet. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person and have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter.
View the citations on the OSHA web site. .
Based in Tamuning, Guam, Superman Corp. is a general contractor that specializes in multi-family residential construction projects.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.