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Cal/OSHA has cited D’Arcy & Harty Construction, Inc. $371,100 for failing to protect employees working in a trench excavation at a construction site in San Francisco. On September 28, 2023, an employee was replacing sewer parts inside the eight-foot-deep trench at 1101 Oak Street when the excavation collapsed, fatally burying the 24-year-old worker.

The 25-year-old man who died was identified as Javier Romero from Alameda County. Romero became trapped under 8 feet of dirt when the trench collapsed in the area of Oak and Divisadero streets.

He was working on part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Panhandle and Inner Sunset Large Sewer Rehabilitation Project to upgrade existing sewer mains and sewer laterals in the area, SFPUC officials said at the time.

Cal/OSHA investigators determined D’Arcy & Harty Construction, Inc. committed willful-serious safety violations by failing to provide a protective system for employees working in the trench and for failing to provide a means of escape such as a ladder in case of collapse – hazards the employer had been warned about weeks before.

In that earlier inspection, a Cal/OSHA investigator had told D’Arcy & Harty Construction Inc. that a trench excavation at 3475 22nd Street did not have adequate shoring and did not have a ladder or other means for workers to escape in case of collapse. The hazards at that San Francisco site were abated before work was able to continue.

Cal/OSHA cited D’Arcy & Harty Construction, Inc., for eight violations total in the fatal September 28 incident, including three categorized as serious accident-related for failure to conduct daily safety inspections of the trench for evidence of possible cave-ins before an employee is allowed to work inside the trench, and failure to properly use equipment and materials to prevent employee exposure to excavation and trenching hazards.

Cal/OSHA offers extensive information and resources on working safely in the construction industry, including how to safely perform trench and excavation operations. Before starting excavation work, the approximate locations of all underground installations that may be encountered during excavation operations must be determined and the proper notification must be made to the appropriate agency in either Northern or Southern California. A permit from the local Cal/OSHA district office must be obtained before the construction of excavations five feet or deeper into which any person is required to descend.

Acting Cal/OSHA Chief Debra Lee said: “Excavations are known hazards and trenches must be evaluated, shored or shielded before workers enter to protect them. This worker’s death is tragic because it was avoidable.”