MANDAN, N.D. (KXNET) — For the seventh time in five years, inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have found Mandan-based Bowers Excavating LLC guilty of exposing workers to trench hazards.

Twice during 2022, Bowers was noted to have sent employees up to ten feet into trenches without protection against the workplace hazard.

After opening three separate inspections against the company, inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA discovered that the company was not providing proper protection to trench workers, actively leaving them open to trench collapses. The inspections, which all took place in the span of 32 days in Bismarck (on September 21, October 18, and October 24 of 2022), resulted in the company being cited with three willful and four repeat violations, as well as one serious violation.

The violation reports from OSHA note that Bowers Excavating showed evidence of all of the following violations:

  • Failure to use adequate protection systems
  • Failure to provide a safe means of entering and exiting trenches
  • Failure to keep soil piles at least two feet from the edges of trenches (to keep materials from falling or rolling into the excavation
  • Failure to protect workers from the hazards related to water accumulating in trenches

These violations have not just been reported by OSHA last year, either: other problems with the company include failed inspections at a Mandan work site in 2021, at one in Watford City in 2019, and at three sites in Bismarck.

“Since 2019, OSHA has repeatedly warned Bowers Excavating about the dangers of working in an unprotected trench,” says OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous. “The idea that our inspectors found the company’s owner actively supervising employees as they worked without required protection at two worksites in 2022 is very troubling, and shows a callous disregard for human life.”

As a result of the failed inspections, OSHA assessed that the excavating company would need to pay $505,333 in proposed penalties. In addition, they will need to create full safety and training programs, lest another disaster and investigation occur.

In June, The National Utility Contractors Association will recognize Trench Safety Month. OSHA’s own trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information regarding trenching hazards and the steps excavation companies must take to avoid them. For more information, visit OSHA’s website.