Company fined $39k in trench collapse that killed worker

North Carolina

(Photo: Getty Images)

TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A construction company has been fined $39,200 by the North Carolina Department of Labor for a trench collapse that killed a worker in May.

Shane Anthony Sharpe, 38, of Taylorsville, was killed in the collapse of a 10-foot deep trench at an Alexander County shopping center. Crews were working on a drainage line, according to the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office.

The collapse occurred in a parking lot outside Big D’s Diner & Country Store on Highway 64/90.

After a six-month investigation, the Department of Labor levied $39,200 in penalties against the contractor on the job, Barnes Backhoe & Grading Inc.

The Charlotte Observer reports that Natalie Bouchard, a department spokeswoman, said the state cited the company “for one alleged willful serious violation and four alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina.”

Attempts by the newspaper to reach the company Saturday were unsuccessful. The company’s voice mailbox was full and wasn’t accepting messages.

The maximum penalty for each serious violation is $7,000, and for a willful serious violation, $70,000, Bouchard said.

“The General Statutes say that the Labor Department has to take into consideration various factors such as the gravity of the violation, the size of the business, the good faith and cooperation of the employer, and the history of previous violations,” Bouchard wrote in an email.

“The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life,” she said.

By law, money from such citations goes to a civil penalty and forfeiture fund, with monies distributed to public school systems, Bouchard said.

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