SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed fines of more than $200,000 for safety violations of a Sioux Falls contracting company. 

In a news release, OSHA says it found workers at risk of being buried under thousands of pounds of soil while working in unprotected trenches in Tea and Salem. The violations happened on Nov. 16, 2021 and Nov. 22, 2021. OSHA says H&W Contracting LLC has a history of disregarding serious dangers associated with working in unprotected trenches and it has been cited three times since 2019.

In Nov. 16, OSHA inspectors say they responded to a complaint and found workers for H&W Contracting in an unprotected trench as a 6-inch waterline to a fire hydrant was being installed. OSHA identified one willful and three serious violations and proposted $122,838 in penalties. 

In Nov. 22, OSHA said another complaint led to an inspection where company employees were working in five separate unprotected trenches and they replaced storm sewers in Salem. OSHA said there was one willful violation and proposed $95,718 in penalties. 

“Each site had a different foreman, different crew members and a different scope of work. The common thread is H&W Contracting’s continued failure to protect its workers,” OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls said in a news release.  

OSHA said 24 workers died while working on trenching and excavation projects in 2019 and from 2011-18 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 166 workers have died in trench collapses.