Feds allege North Dakota contractor broke trench-digging safety rules; $505,000 fine proposed

Bowers Excavating, a Mandan business, has violated safety regulations seven times in five years, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A yellow CAT excavator on a pile of dirt.
An excavator sits on a pile of dirt in this 2020 photo.
Matthew T. Rader via Wikiamedia Commons

MANDAN, N.D. — A Mandan contractor accused of failing inspections, ignoring warnings and overseeing workers in unprotected trenches could face more than $500,000 in fines, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday, March 28.

Federal workplace safety inspectors found that twice last year, the owner of Bowers Excavating supervised employees as they installed municipal water lines in trenches as deep as 10 feet without protection against potentially deadly collapses, according to OSHA.

Bowers Excavating has violated safety regulations seven times in five years, OSHA said. The company did not return a phone message from The Forum seeking comment for this story.

In 32 days, OSHA opened three inspections into Bowers Excavating on Sept. 21, 2022, and Oct. 18, 2022, in Bismarck, and Oct. 24, 2022, in Mandan. Inspectors cited the company for three willful and four repeat violations, and one serious violation, according to OSHA, which assessed the company $505,333 in proposed penalties.

In the past, Bowers Excavating failed inspections at a Mandan worksite in 2021 and at three sites in Bismarck and one in Watford City in 2019, OSHA said.


“Since 2019, OSHA has repeatedly warned Bowers Excavating about the dangers of working in an unprotected trench. The idea that our inspectors found the company’s owner actively supervising employees as they worked without required protection at two worksites in 2022 is very troubling, and shows a callous disregard for human life,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver.

OSHA said inspectors found the company failed to provide a safe way to enter and exit trenches, did not keep soil piles at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench to keep materials from falling or rolling into the excavation and failed to protect workers from the hazards related to water accumulating in trenches.

“Bowers Excavating LLC accepted contracts and then brazenly ignored federal safety requirements. This company is making a losing bet with their employees’ lives,” Rous added. “They must immediately develop and use a comprehensive safety and training program before tragedy strikes.”

In 2022, trench collapses killed 39 workers in the United States, OSHA said.

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