Boise & Garden City

Hard Rock protests OSHA findings in fatal Boise trench collapse

A firefighter with the Boise Fire Department digs near the scene of a trench collapse on North Gary Lane near the intersection of North Hill Road Parkway Tuesday evening. Three people were reported to have been trapped, and two are reported dead.
A firefighter with the Boise Fire Department digs near the scene of a trench collapse on North Gary Lane near the intersection of North Hill Road Parkway Tuesday evening. Three people were reported to have been trapped, and two are reported dead. Kyle Green

Hard Rock Construction has formally appealed findings by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the company failed to properly train and protect its employees and that those failures were factors in the deaths of two workers, Bert Smith Jr. of Caldwell and Ernesto Saucedo of Nampa.

The appeal doesn’t necessarily mean the matter will end up before a judge, said Dave Kearns, head of OSHA’s local office. It’s possible, though not necessarily likely, that representatives for the agency and company can find common ground in the dispute and reach an agreement that both sides accept, Kearns said.

“It would be nice if it gets resolved soon, for everybody involved,” he said. “We feel fairly strongly, and hopefully through this process they’ll start to understand our position, and we may be able to convince them of the strength of our position, but they may be able to convince us of other things as well, too. So it’s just a negotiation process.”

Smith and Saucedo died after a 9- to 11-foot deep trench they were working in collapsed in the late afternoon of May 3 near the corner of Hill Road and Gary Lane in Boise.

A third worker was injured but survived after he was removed from the trench. Kearns said he is probably permanently disabled.

The victims were part of a crew for Hard Rock, which is based in Meridian. They were digging a trench for a sewer line that would connect to four future homes on the southeast corner of those roads.

Kearns told the Idaho Statesman last month that a photograph Smith took shortly before the collapse shows three workers in the trench without any cave-in protection. The photo also shows Rob Haddock, part owner of Hard Rock, standing next to the trench, he said. Kearns declined to release the photo to the Statesman.

OSHA issued fines against Hard Rock totaling $77,319.

If OSHA-Hard Rock negotiations fail to produce an agreement, Kearns said, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, based in Washington, D.C., would appoint a judge to settle the dispute. There’s no deadline for reach a settlement, he said.

“There’s no guarantee that we’ll reach an agreement before it goes to appeal,” Kearns said. “But they seem like nice, reasonable folks and hopefully they feel the same about us.”

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