August 9, 2021 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Construction Company Owner Ordered to Serve Time, Make Restitution for Preventable Worksite Fatality from Trench Collapse

trench collapse that killed worker

ContractOne Inc. owner, Bryan Johnson, is held accountable for worksite death from a preventable trench collapse.

A Colorado state court has sentenced the owner of an Avon construction company to jail and ordered restitution for the family of a 50-year-old company worker who suffered fatal injuries in a preventable trench collapse at a Granby worksite in June 2018.

trench collapse - construction co. owner Bryan Johnson

The Grand County Court of the State of Colorado sentenced Bryan Johnson, owner of ContractOne Inc., to 10 months in jail for two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of third degree assault related to the death of Rosario Martinez on June 14, 2018. Johnson pleaded guilty to the charges on June 16, 2021.

In its sentencing for the trench collapse, the court also ordered Johnson to:

  • Serve three years’ probation.
  • Pay Martinez’s family restitution not to exceed $25,000.
  • Make charitable contributions to local charities.
  • Participate in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workers Memorial Day ceremony.
  • Complete safety training.
  • Not commit any willful or serious future OSHA violations.
  • Allow OSHA to inspect his worksites without an administrative warrant.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Johnson had hired Martinez to install drywall and do carpentry work but failed to train him or his other workers to identify or avoid hazards related to trenching and excavation. At the time of the trench collapse, Martinez was installing a water service line at a Granby, Colorado, residential construction site.

The trench collapsed the day before but Johnson ignored obvious signs to change his procedures

Martinez’s son was onsite, and assisted first responders in digging his father out of the trench. Martinez later succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital.

OSHA investigators found ContractOne Inc. willfully failed to use a trench protective system as required

The company also failed to conduct regular site inspections to correct potentially hazardous conditions; did not place excavated soil piles a safe distance from trench edges; failed to provide ladders for egress; and did not use appropriate utility location procedures during trenching operations.

“The evidence collected during OSHA’s investigation, and later relied upon by the District Attorney’s Office to pursue criminal charges, reflects particularly egregious behavior,” said Occupational Safety and Health Administration  Acting Regional Administrator Nancy Hauter, in Denver. “Trenching is one of the most dangerous activities in the construction industry and Bryan Johnson failed to take any affirmative steps to protect employees, despite repeated warnings that work activities at the jobsite were hazardous.”

“Safety and health is paramount and takes precedence over production or profits,” said U.S. Department of Labor Regional Solicitor John Rainwater, in Denver.

“The department believes the facts of this case warrant the sentence and we support the District Attorney’s efforts to hold Johnson accountable for failing to protect workers under his care and supervision. Incarceration sends a strong message. We believe that prosecuting criminal cases has the ability to change the industry.”

In the past decade, the department’s Solicitor’s Office has increased the number of criminal referrals to the U.S. Department of Justice and forged more partnerships with state and local prosecutors to prosecute employers under state criminal statutes.

Criminal enforcement is an effective enforcement tool. The timely prosecution of an individual within the community in which they work, and where the victim often resided, has a strong deterrent effect in the industry and sends a signal to the regulated community that certain behavior, such as that which results in significant harm to workers, will not be tolerated.

Source: Via the U.S. Department of Labor, from the News Release Desk, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, (OSHA).

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