In order to try to protect workers and keep employers in line, there are work safety laws. OSHA helps evaluate safety among the workplace and recently cited a Huntsville contractor for failing to foster a safe work environment for its construction workers. It sounds like workers for the Alabama company were lucky to get out of the trenches alive so far.
The employees for the Huntsville company literally work in trenches while working on structures, and OSHA has verified that their employer was allowing them to work in unsafe conditions. There are certain safety regulations regarding trench work, including rules regarding protective gear, having safe access in and out of the trenches and more.
Neglecting such safety precautions isn't just irresponsible, but it is against the law and could easily lead to the injuries or death of workers. That idea didn't go unnoticed by one of the workers, who reported that he believed he was fired for refusing to work in such dangerous conditions in the trenches.
The OSHA news release doesn't indicate whether the worker wanted or got his job back with the negligent company. His whistle blowing and the investigation it prompted, however, did move OSHA to cite and fine the contractor for its willful and serious safety violations.
Businesses do have the option of challenging such citations. Exercising legal rights is important, for everyone. The whistleblower in this case had a right to report his experience and might have saved lives by doing so. But doing that should not have come at the cost of his job.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Huntsville, Ala., contractor cited by US Department of Labor's OSHA for willful, serious trenching violations; more than $122,000 proposed in fines," July 12, 2012