The feds say sewer line workers crushed “thousands of pounds of soil and rock” in Texas

Construction hat image file.  Authorities say two workers were killed in Texas when they were crushed by rocks and soil in a trench collapse.

Construction hat image file. Authorities say two workers were killed in Texas when they were crushed by rocks and soil in a trench collapse.

Umit Yildirim via Unsplash

Authorities say two workers were installing sewer lines in a trench more than two stories underground in Texas when they were killed.

Their deaths in June prompted an investigation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which found that a construction company in Georgetown gave contract employees “little chance of survival,” according to a December 22 press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“A large section of the excavation collapsed and was crushed under thousands of pounds of soil and rock,” authorities said, adding that WBW Construction LLC failed to take legally required safety precautions.

WBW Construction LLC, a construction contractor in Georgetown, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Dec. 23.

“WBW Construction LLC deliberately sent these workers into an unprotected trench and ignored federal safety requirements,” OSHA District Administrator Casey Perkins said in the release. “Now, the families, friends and co-workers of two workers are left to grieve their tragic and avoidable deaths.”

Investigators found that the contractor did not have a trench protection system, and there was no exit point 25 feet inside the trench at the Jarrell residential construction site, according to the release.

Authorities said the company did not use ladders as designed, failed to inspect the site as frequently as federally required, did not remove water from the ditch and failed to provide first aid training to workers.

“Such accidents can be prevented by following proven and known methods of protecting workers from fatal hazards in excavation and excavation work,” Perkins said.

OSHA proposed fines of $250,272 and placed WBW Construction LLC in a severe violation enforcement program.

Officials said Sedona Staffing Services — an Illinois-based company that offers temporary staff — provided the two employees who were killed.

The company was cited for not inspecting job sites and faces $9,324 in penalties.

Sedona Staffing Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment Dec. 23.

Both companies have 15 business days from the date they receive the citation notices to comply, request a meeting with OSHA, or challenge the findings.

In 2022, Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported more than 35 workers killed in drilling and drilling operations through November, according to the release. That’s more than double the number of trenchers and diggers killed in 2021.

WBW Construction LLC has developed more than two dozen residential and commercial projects in Texas, officials said.

Jarrell is located about 15 miles northeast of Georgetown and 40 miles from Austin.

Caitlin Alanis is McClatchy’s national real-time correspondent based in Kansas. She is a graduate of Agriculture Communications and Journalism from Kansas State University.


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