OSHA Catches Fall River, Mass. Contractor with Unprotected Trench

A Fall River, Mass., contractor faces $25,950 in fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a spot inspection found two employees working in an unprotected 6-foot, 7-inch deep trench at a Milton, Mass., water main construction site. C N Corp. was cited for a total of six alleged violations of trenching safety standards.

OSHA inspectors driving by the jobsite at the intersection of Bassett and Granite Streets stopped and opened the inspection upon seeing the apparently unprotected trench. The inspection found that the vertical cut, straight-walled trench had fissures in its walls, water accumulating in its bottom and lacked any form of protection against its walls caving in.

“All excavations five feet or deeper must be protected against collapse,” said Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for southeastern Massachusetts. “Employers who fail to do so are gambling with the lives of their employees. It takes only a few moments for trench walls to cave in and turn a trench into a grave.”

In addition to the lack of cave-in protection and the water accumulation, OSHA found that the sidewalk overhanging the trench had not been supported or removed; excavated material and tools were stored at the trench’s edge; the trench had not been inspected by a competent person who could identify and correct trenching hazards; and the workers had not been trained to recognize and avoid such hazards.

As a result of the inspection, C N Corp. was issued one willful citation, with a $21,000 fine, for the lack of collapse protection and five serious citations, carrying $4,950 in fines, for the remaining hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Source: OSHA