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Contractor Gets 10 Months in Jail After Worker’s Trench Collapse Death

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A Colorado contractor has been sentenced to 10 months in jail after one of his workers died in a trench collapse in 2018.

Bryan D. Johnson, president of residential and commercial general contractor ContractOne of Avon, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of third degree assault. His sentence, handed down July 15, also includes three years of probation, up to $25,000 in restitution to the worker’s family, donations to local charities and safety training. He also has to participate in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workers Memorial Day Ceremony and allow the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect his worksites without an administrative warrant. He also must not commit any future serious or willful OSHA violations.

Rosario “Chayo” Martínez, 50, was working in an 8-foot-deep trench June 14, 2018, attaching a copper water pipe to a main line when the trench collapsed and buried him, according to OSHA. Martinez’s son was also working on the site and helped to dig his father out. Martinez died later at the hospital.

The trench had previously collapsed the day before the incident, “but Johnson ignored obvious signs to change his procedures,” OSHA says.

Martinez had not been trained in trenching, according to OSHA. He was hired to install drywall and for carpentry work.

OSHA later cited ContractOne with one willful violation – OSHA’s most severe penalty – for not having a protective system to prevent cave-in, as well as 12 serious violations and one other violation. The serious violations included no worker hard hat or eye or face protection, no ladder or other means to exit the trench, working in a trench with accumulated water, materials and equipment closer than 2 feet from the edge of the trench, and the trench had not been inspected by a competent person before workers entered.

OSHA fined ContractOne $57,463 on December 6, 2018. The contractor contested the penalty, which was later reduced to $40,000.

According to a former GoFundMe page set up for Martínez, he was a husband and father.

“He was kind, funny, smart, hard-working and the sole provider for his family that lives in Mexico,” the fundraising page said. “We will miss him tremendously but will try to find solace in the knowledge that his spirit will remain long after his passing.”

Martinez’s family had not wanted Johnson to face criminal prosecution or get jail time, according to a report of the hearing by Sky-Hi News. Johnson has assisted the family financially after the death and was a close friend of Martinez’s, the newspaper reported.

Johnson was quoted by Sky-Hi News during the hearing as saying, “I understand now the accident was completely avoidable and it was my responsibility to see that it was avoided. There will never be a day that I don’t think about all the different ways that day should have gone.”

OSHA said criminal enforcement is an effective tool in combating trench collapses, which are avoidable if proper safety measures are taken.

“Safety and health is paramount and takes precedence over production or profits,” said U.S. Department of Labor Regional Solicitor John Rainwater, in Denver. “The department believes the facts of this case warrant the sentence, and we support the District Attorney’s efforts to hold Johnson accountable for failing to protect workers under his care and supervision. Incarceration sends a strong message. We believe that prosecuting criminal cases has the ability to change the industry.”

OSHA’s inspection report was used by the district attorney’s office in deciding to prosecute the case. Johnson showed “particularly egregious behavior” before the incident, said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Nancy Hauter, in Denver. “Trenching is one of the most dangerous activities in the construction industry and Bryan Johnson failed to take any affirmative steps to protect employees, despite repeated warnings that work activities at the jobsite were hazardous.”

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Policing review says violence against women is as important as terrorism

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A new report says tackling violence against women must be considered as much of a priority for the police as anti-terrorism.

The report, undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), was commissioned by home Secretary Priti Patel in the wake of the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March this year and recommends a “radical shift” in the way crimes against women and girls are considered.

It further expressed “grave concerns” regarding the number of cases closed without charge, “major gaps” in the data recorded on offences, and the “staggering” degree of variation in attitudes toward domestic abuse across police forces in England and Wales.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, the report’s author, Zoe Billingham HM Inspector of Constabulary said that, “ There is a real sense, I think, in the wake of this epidemic of violence, that enough is enough. There needs to be a whole new way of dealing with this and this is what we set out in our report today”.

Although acknowledging that the police had vastly improved in their response over the last 7 years, Billingham said, “We are not going to police our way out of the breadth and depth of the crimes that are being committed against women every day” stating that “we think there needs to be an uplift in the prioritisation of the violence against women crimes”.

The report also found that the total of investigations into sexual attacks against women shelved because of ‘evidential difficulties’ tripled from 4,326 cases in 2014-15 to 13,395 in 2019-20, a figure Billingham described as “eye-wateringly” high.

She went on to argue that some sexual predators and domestic abusers are ‘laughing’ at the law, as police will often not act against people who have repeatedly breached non-molestation orders.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Friday, Labour MP and former minister Harriet Harman said she gave “all credit to the Home Secretary” for commissioning the review, but said she hoped the government would now take action as a result of the findings, and said the home office must “immediately tackle domestic violence a priority in the strategic policing requirement – which at the moment it isn’t”.

She also said it was “completely not acceptable” that Labour MP Rosie Duffield, who has attracted controversy due to her comments on gender self-identification, may not attend the Labour Party conference due to fear of personal safety.

Ahead of the report’s release, shadow minister for domestic violence Jess Phillips said via Twitter:

“So who is now the Home Office Minister for safeguarding with responsibility for the biggest violent crime type in the UK? Because tomorrow there is a report coming from the inspectorate in to how well that’s going, so they better get reading pretty quick.”

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SNIPEF boosts industrial relations support

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The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) has strengthened its industrial relations advisory service with a new appointment.

Read Full Article: The Construction Index

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McLaren wins new Aston Martin F1 factory race

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The Enquirer understands McLaren will deliver the £200m project which will see construction of a new factory and testing wind tunnel at the new headquarters for the Formula One team.

Building work will take 18 months on the scheme designed by Ridge and Partners LLP

Three buildings across 400,000 sq ft will house the team’s design, manufacturing and marketing resource, the brand-new wind tunnel and a factory and logistics centre.

McLaren declined to comment.

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