A Colorado construction company owner facing felony manslaughter charges for a fatal trench collapse has surrendered to law enforcement after a warrant was issued for his arrest Jan. 24.
Peter Dillon, owner of the now-defunct A4S LLC, was arrested on charges related to an OSHA investigation that found Dillon and his company refused to require safety protection in the trench despite worsening conditions.
OSHA: Incident was preventable
The incident occurred in November 2021 when a worker installing residential sewer pipes suffered fatal injuries when the trench caved in around him. Investigators found that the collapse resulted from deteriorating conditions at the project, which Dillon and his company could have prevented by using legally required trench protection systems, according to OSHA.
The agency issued three willful citations to A4S LLC for:
- not ensuring the excavation was inspected by a competent person
- failing to instruct employees on the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions, and
- not having a trench protective system in place.
A serious citation for failure to have a safe means of egress within 25 lateral feet of employees working in a trench was also issued.
Leads to $449K fine, Severe Violator Program, business closure
The violations resulted in proposed penalties totaling $449,583 and the company was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA referred the case to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office recommending criminal charges for A4S LLC’s refusal to require safety protection, despite worsening trench conditions that included at least one trench collapse.
The company has since ceased operations and Dillon has agreed to forfeit any future ownership, leadership or management position involving trenching, excavation or the oversight of workplace safety and health.
‘Cannot recover lost life, but it’s a step toward justice’
“Let this tragedy serve as a reminder to other employers who willingly fail in their responsibilities to keep workers safe that the U.S. Department of Labor will exhaust every resource to hold employers accountable for protecting workers, including recommending criminal prosecution,” OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer S. Rous said. “OSHA has pledged to work with state prosecutors to raise the stakes in appropriate trenching death cases, and this is an example.”
“Today’s arrest by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office cannot recover a life lost in this senseless tragedy but it is a step toward seeking justice for the family,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater.
Collapses and cave-ins pose the greatest threat to trenching and excavation workers. In 2022, OSHA reported that at least 39 industry workers died, 22 of them in the first six months of the year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 166 workers died in trench collapses from 2011 to 2018.