Entrepreneur gets jail sentence in fatal trench
A Colorado contractor was sentenced to 10 months in prison for a fatal 2018 trench collapse at a construction site in Granby, Colorado. The case comes under a partnership between the Department of Labor’s attorney’s office (DOL) and state and local prosecutors to prosecute employers under state criminal laws, as well as an increased number of criminal referrals to the department of the United States Justice for federal prosecutions.
Criminal lawsuits against employers in the communities where they work and where the victim lived are an effective deterrent and send a strong signal to regulated industries, according to a statement from the DOL and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Bryan Johnson, owner of ContractOne Inc., has been charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of third degree assault related to the death of Rosario Martinez, who suffered fatal injuries in a avoidable trench collapse on the Granby construction site on June 14. , 2018. Johnson pleaded guilty to the charges on June 16 of this year.
In addition to the jail term, a Colorado state court also ordered Johnson to:
- Serve three years of probation;
- Pay Martinez’s family restitution not exceeding $ 25,000;
- Make charitable contributions to local charities;
- Participate in the United States Department of Labor Workers’ Remembrance Day ceremony;
- Take safety training and not commit any future willful or serious violations of OSHA; and
- Allow OSHA to inspect its sites without an administrative mandate.
OSHA inspectors determined Johnson hired Martinez to install drywall and do carpentry work, but failed to train him or his other workers to identify or avoid the dangers of digging. trenches and excavation. Martinez was installing a water pipe at the time of the collapse.
The trench had collapsed the day before Martinez died, but Johnson ignored signs to change his procedures. Martinez’s son was there and helped first responders get his father out of the trench, but Martinez later succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital, according to DOL.
OSHA inspectors discovered that ContractOne Inc. intentionally failed to use a required trench protection system. Agency inspectors determined that the employer also failed to:
- Perform regular site inspections to correct a potentially hazardous condition;
- Place the piles of excavated soil at a safe distance from the edges of the trenches;
- Provide ladders for evacuation of the trenches; and
- Use proper utility locating procedures during trenching operations.
“The department believes the facts of this case warrant the conviction and we support the district attorney’s efforts to hold Johnson accountable for failing to protect the workers in his care and supervision. Incarceration sends a strong message, ”Denver regional attorney John Rainwater said in the DOL statement. “We believe that criminal prosecution has the power to change the industry.”
“The evidence gathered during the OSHA investigation, and which the district attorney’s office subsequently relied on to pursue criminal charges, reflects particularly egregious behavior,” said Nancy Hauter, regional administrator for interim OSHA in Denver, in the agency’s statement.