Contractor fined $106K for putting Downtown Boise workers in danger

Rendering of the finished Pioneer Crossing project, with offices, a hotel, parking, dining and other amenities.
Rendering of the finished Pioneer Crossing project, with offices, a hotel, parking, dining and other amenities.

A construction firm hired to work on the Parcel B/Pioneer Crossing development in Downtown Boise has been cited for breaking worker safety laws.

The $65 million project spans the five acres between 11th and 13th streets and Myrtle and Front streets. It includes a 644-space parking garage and other buildings currently under construction.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday that Boise company Alta Construction placed its employees in danger by failing to follow safe trenching practices at the work site.

The company was cited with willful and serious violations of worker safety laws. OSHA is proposing a $106,470 fine. The lion’s share of the fine is for the “willful” violation.

A willful violation is when “an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the [worker safety law] or a plain indifference to employee safety and health,” according to OSHA. The agency would not elaborate on how this incident met that definition as the citation may still be appealed.

Inspectors for the agency went out to Alta’s work site along Myrtle Avenue between 11th and 12 streets on May 3, after receiving two complaints of unsafe trenching operations. (Alta was issued a permit that day for work on the Parcel B parking garage project.) OSHA inspectors found employees working inside a 7-foot-deep trench without any cave-in protection to keep them safe if the trench collapsed.

The trench also did not have a stairway, ladder, ramp or other safe way of getting out of the trench.

“Fortunately no one was injured, but it is imperative that companies use protective systems in trenches to keep their workers safe,” local OSHA director David Kearns said.

Two men were killed and one injured after a trench collapsed in Northwest Boise last year.

“After the May 2016 trench collapse deaths, we’ve heard from many in the construction field locally who said it was a ‘wake up call’ for them,” Kearns said.

Any trench that is more than 5 feet deep is required to have cave-in protection such as a trench box.

Alta officials did not immediately respond to a message from the Idaho Statesman.

OSHA’s citation is not final. By Thursday morning, Alta had already scheduled an informal conference with OSHA to talk about the violations. Alta also may appeal OSHA’s findings to an independent review commission.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @audreydutton