Though the Hassell Construction Co. Inc. employee wasn't killed, he did go to the hospital. He's one of about 150 employees who build water and sewer lines in the Houston area.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes the firm knew the site was dangerous but didn't protect workers. OSHA found 16 safety violations, including six egregious willful violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. The company faces penalties totaling $423,900.

“For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses," says Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels. "It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger workers."

Hassell also was cited for nine serious violations, including failing to remove debris from the edge of the excavation. The company also did not provide a safe way to get in and out of the excavation or conduct atmospheric testing inside excavations after a sewer leak.

"Trench cave-ins are preventable,” says John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “There are long-established, basic precautions. They’re not new, and they’re not secret.”

OSHA has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program concentrates on inspecting employers that have demonstrated indifference toward creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations and/or failing to abate known hazards. It also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.