Wyoming Trench Death Investigation – Developer’s Violations

A fatal trench collapse took the lives of two men in Teton County. The two men were working in a 12-foot-deep trench at a construction site when it gave way. The developer of the site was giving direction and control of the two men to perform the excavation and trench work for the construction project. While doing that he failed to provide adequate safety measures or appropriate training to the men for the work they were performing. It was believed the men were in the trench assembling a French drain designed to drain ground water away from the home that was under construction on the property. Both men were buried in a 12-feet to 15-feet trench. The Teton County Prosecuting Attorney decided not to press charges due to a lack of evidence. Representatives for the family are suing the developer for wrongful death. The civil case is slowly making its way through the courts. The developer had some of the required permits, but the excavation work being performed the day both gentlemen passed was without a required Teton County Grading and Erosion Control Permit.

More concerning is that an employee from Teton County Engineering Department expressed to the developer that trenching in a new waterline from his well would not be allowed because he is required to connect to the HOA’s community water system. The developer told the Teton County Engineering Department employee he understood. Unfortunately, when the employee went out to the construction site, he found that the well water line had been installed contrary to his explicit non-approval instructions.

The reporter also interviewed an employee who worked for the developer. On the day of the fatal accident she reported to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that she witnessed a manager shredding time cards. Six months after the fatal accident, Wyoming’s OSHA penalized the developer on five “serious” violations. OSHA also cited the developer for a lack of oversight within his business.

It is overwhelmingly clear that something needs to change. Employees need to be provided an adequate opportunity to learn their trade. They need to be offered enough training that will ensure their safety on the job site.