HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A Manchester contractor faces more than $375,000 in fines after a federal investigation found it failed to provide legally required safeguards and ensure they were in place to prevent trench collapses that contributed to the death of an employee.

Dennis Slater, a 56-year-old employee of Botticello Inc., died in July 2022 after an 8-foot-deep trench caved in at a residential development construction site in Vernon. The family-owned business provides construction contracting services, including site work, rock crushing, stump grinding, and demolition.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said Botticello Inc. exposed Slater to “deadly hazards as he connected drainage piping” at the site. In November 2015, OSHA said its inspectors identified four serious violations related to trenching work by Botticello Inc. at a Stafford worksite.

“This deadly cave-in and the worker’s death should never have happened,” said OSHA Area Director Dale Varney in Hartford. “After a previous OSHA inspection, Botticello Inc. knew of the dangers of working in an unprotected trench and the need to inspect the trench and ensure required effective cave-in protection was in place before any employee entered the trench. The company, however, still chose to ignore these required safeguards, and now a worker’s family, friends, and co-workers are left to grieve.”

Specifically, OSHA found that Botticello Inc. failed to:

  • Provide the trench with a protective system to prevent it from collapsing and caving in on workers.
  • Have a competent person conduct inspections before and during the work to identify and correct any hazardous conditions before employees enter the trench.
  • Ensure the 135-foot-long trench contains sufficient means of egress to allow employees to exit safely.

As a result, OSHA cited Botticello Inc. for three willful violations and proposed $375,021 in penalties.

Federal trenching safety standards require protective systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet and that soil and other materials be kept at least 2 feet from the trench’s edge. OSHA said that a knowledgeable person must also inspect trenches, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entry and exit before a worker may enter.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Editor’s note: In a previous version of this story, we incorrectly stated Botticello Inc. faced $375 million in fines. The company faces $375,000 in fines.