Sunday, September 11, 2016

OSHA nears release of findings in deadly Boise, ID trench collapse that killed two workers with Hard Rock Construction, a Meridian excavation company, and seriously injured another

A firefighter at scene of the May 3 trench collapse on North Gary Lane near Hill Road Parkway. Kyle Green

By Sven Berg

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's local office has completed its investigation into a May 3 trench collapse in Boise that killed two men and seriously injured another, said Dave Kearns, the agency's director here.  

The coroner’s office says 26-year-old Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata and 36-year-old Bert Smith Jr. died due to mechanical asphyxia due to compression.
OSHA's regional office is reviewing the local office's findings, Kearns said, and an official report should be released within a couple weeks.

The collapse occurred in the late afternoon of May 3 near the corner of Hill Road and Gary Lane. Highway district and city of Boise records indicate a crew for Hard Rock Construction, a Meridian excavation company, was digging a trench for a sewer line that would connect to four future homes on the southeast corner of those roads. The incident killed workers Bert Smith Jr., and Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata. A third worker was injured seriously but has since been released from the hospital.


OSHA investigating after trench workers killed

The coroner says the men died because they could not breath under the weight of the dirt.
Dean Johnson, KTVB 10:22 PM. MDT May 04, 2016

(Photo: KTVB)

BOISE, ID -- The Ada County coroner released the names Wednesday of two men killed Tuesday night after a trench they were working in collapsed.

The coroner’s office says 26-year-old Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata and 36-year-old Bert Smith Jr. died due to mechanical asphyxia due to compression.

The Boise Fire Department says Zapata and Smith were pronounced dead at the scene off of Gary Lane and Hill Road.

A third person, not identified, was taken to the hospital.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the lead on the investigation and is working with both the Boise Police Department and Fire Department.

“This is the first trench-related death we've had in some time," OSHA Area Director David Kearns said.

The deaths of both Zapata and Smith spawned the investigation by OSHA.

“We do have an open investigation. Anytime there is a fatality, we are required to be notified and also to conduct an inspection," Kearns said.

Kearns says some things they'll look into for their investigation is what caused the accident and if there were any violations of safety or health rules.

“On this were there any precautions in place?" KTVB asked.

"Can't comment upon the nature of this investigation," Kearns replied.

The city of Boise says they did issue a permit to Hard Rock Construction for a sewer tap.

We contacted Hard Rock Construction and the person that answered the phone said the owners were busy at the time.

The Boise Fire Department says the trench was about nine feet deep when it collapsed. Kearns says anything deeper than five feet needs cave-in protections.

“Generally if a trench caves in then there was probably something that was missed as far as protecting workers.”

Kearns says many times when safety measures are missed it means those involved got in a hurry.

“They underestimate, they think it won’t' happen to them," Kearns said.

OSHA does do inspections on job sites, but Kearns says they only have seven inspectors for the entire state of Idaho, so they rely on employers.  Good luck with that, bro.

“There needs to be a culture out there in the community where leaders, employers, workers, actually build that culture where it's completely unacceptable to be exposing workers to hazards,” he said.

Hazards, Kearns says, that are preventable.

“The commonalities with almost all these fatalities investigations that we look at is almost all of them are entirely preventable," Kearns said.

Many people who live near the construction site on Gary Lane have heavy hearts.

"I didn't know any of the men working, but just to think of them getting trapped and was just very sad," said Erica Cordova.

She picked flowers from her front yard and placed them near where the accident happened. Someone also brought a cross.

"It just makes us think of how precious life is," Cordova added.

OSHA officials say their investigation into the incident could take up to six months, but Kearns told us he hopes it will be completed before then.


Hard Rock Construction, Inc.
Company Overview

Hard Rock Construction, Inc. was formerly known as Hard Rock Excavation, Inc. before it changed its name in February, 2001. The company was incorporated in 2001 and is based in Meridian, Idaho. On November 19, 2009, Hard Rock Construction, Inc. filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Idaho.

4190 North Star Road
Meridian, ID 83646
United States

Founded in 2001 

Key Executives for Hard Rock Construction, Inc.
Mr. Dave Callister

Our Company

Dave Callister began concrete construction in the Treasure Valley in 1974. In an effort to improve the lax standards he experienced in the excavation industry, in 2001 Dave purchased Lee’s Excavation, a 15 year-old excavation company. He renamed it Hard Rock Construction.

Hard Rock Construction began a quest to provide consistent grade and compaction standards while keeping a tight schedule and developing efficient methods that drove costs down. The company quickly gained a reputation among builders that led to its growth from 5 employees to over 100 by 2006, partially by purchasing two additional competitors. In 2006 Rob Haddock who is a CPA became a partner as well as the company comptroller.

Instead of jumping from dozer to backhoe to skid steer like many excavators, Hard Rock splits the process into three steps and trains its operators to be specialists who only perform one service repetitively. In this way our dozer operators dig many homes every day and thousands of homes each year. Our utility crews and our prep crews also stay on the same piece of equipment every day and become the valley’s most proficient and experienced.

The company started as a residential excavator, peaking at over 200 homes per month. Hardrock’s position as Idaho’s largest residential excavator allows it to provide large-scale savings and service to southern Idaho’s home building industry. As some of its over 250 builder clients expanded to developments and commercial projects, Hard Rock expanded along with them.

The company put together a commercial division that has completed numerous commercial projects and subdivisions throughout central and southern Idaho. In 2002 it attained a public works license that was AAA rated, “Idaho’s highest rating”. The company job scope ranges from full residential packages to commercial building and site work.

In 2007 Hard Rock Construction conducted a comprehensive survey of its 155 previous customers. The survey results showed that the company’s production home building clients recorded a satisfaction level of 8.9 out of 10. In addition, 100% of these respondents indicated that they would recommend the company to others.

The company has added a gravel pit operation and a 10-acre yard on Star Road. The company’s highest annual gross revenue exceeded $11,000,000.00 with projects ranging up to $2,750,000.00. Historically the company’s commercial division has been most competitive in the $1,500,000.00 and under range.