Company Whose Worker Died In Trench Incident Had Prior Violations

Toni Sutton-Deangelico

Sugarcreek Township, Ohio ( – Earlier this month a worker died in a trench collapse at a home construction site, and according to OSHA records, the company has violated safety laws numerous times in the past.

Firefighters recovered the body of 43-year-old Dalbert Burton of Union Twp., from a deep trench at a home in the Landings at a Sugarcreek subdivision where he was working. Burton was working for Payne Enterprises Inc., a plumbing contracting business out of Dayton, Ohio. According to OSHA, the company was first cited back in May 2010 for two safety violations, and since then has been penalized by the agency on three different occasions, and has a total of 10 violations.

Thurman Wenzl, who’s a workplace safety advocate with the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, wrote a letter to Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller because of the past violations requesting that criminal charges be filed against that company as well as the Inverness Group, the developer on the project.

“That employer, Payne Enterprises, knew very well the hazards involved and the protective measures necessary, but chose to recklessly disregard them,” Wenzl said in a news release. In his letter to Haller, he wrote, “we need this sort of legal remedy to more forcefully persuade small employers to understand the risks that they may be placing their workers in.”

Trenching Accidents
Approximately 25 workers each year are killed from tech-related accidents all across the nation, according to Laborer’s Health and Safety Fund of North America.

The Ohio incident is the third fatal work-related trench collapse in the area in the last three years. OSHA has six months to issue citations, investigate and propose any penalties related to the fatality. reached out to Department of Labor spokesman Scott Allen about the case, and he stated: “we do not comment on cases that are ongoing.”

On April 3, 2019, just days before Burton’s work-related death, OSHA representatives participated in Trenching Safety Day in Warren, Ohio. The goal of the day is to educate both employers and employees on cave-in prevention and decrease in the number of trench collapses, as they result in serious injuries or fatalities. The event featured presentations on shoring equipment, soil mechanics, and trench safety regulations.

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