Region 1 News Release: BOS 98-188
Thursday, October 1, 1998
Contact: John M. Chavez, (617) 565-2075
Over $57,000 in Penalties Proposed against P.A. Landers, Inc.
OSHA CITES HANOVER, MASS. CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL AND
SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING PLYMOUTH, MASS., TRENCH COLLAPSE WHICH INJURED WORKER
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor
Department has completed an inspection stemming from a Plymouth, Massachusetts,
trench collapse which injured a worker. OSHA has cited the worker's employer, P.A.
Landers, Inc., an excavation contractor based in Hanover, Mass., for alleged
Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and has
proposed penalties totaling $57,500.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern
Massachusetts, the accident took place on April 9, 1998, at a construction site
located on Sea Cliff Drive in Plymouth. An employee of P.A. Landers was working in
an unguarded excavation between five and nine feet in depth when one of its walls
suddenly collapsed, burying him up to his chest.
"OSHA's inspection found that the trench lacked any protection against a
collapse of its sidewalls," said Gordon. "Such protection could have been provided
by shoring up the trench's sidewalls, by sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by
use of a protective device known as a trench box. Yet, and despite the fact this
employer is an excavation contractor, none of these baseline safeguards was
utilized in this trench prior to the accident. As a result, OSHA is citing this
employer for an alleged Willful violation for failing to provide collapse
protection for this trench and proposing a fine of $55,000."
Gordon explained that the sizable amount of the proposed fine stems from the
categorization of the citation as Willful, the most severe level of OSHA citation,
issued only when OSHA believes based on its inspection that the employer knew what
safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected not to provide
"OSHA's excavation safety standard requires that an effective form of collapse
protection be in use prior to employees' starting work in a trench or excavation
when it is five feet or more in depth or when an inspection by a competent person
determines it is necessary," said Gordon. "This is because its walls can collapse
with great force and without warning, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of
soil before they have time to react or escape. Which is exactly what happened in
this case. In this instance, the accident was not fatal but that was in spite of,
not due to, the absence of adequate and effective cave-in protection."
Gordon added that trenching safety is the subject of an OSHA national emphasis
program. Under that program, OSHA inspectors will stop at any trench they
encounter in the course of their normal duties and conduct a quick examination. If
potentially hazardous conditions are observed, the inspector will open up an
inspection. If violations are found, appropriate citations and fines will
P.A. Landers, Inc., was also cited for one alleged Serious violation, not
directly related to the accident, for allowing an employee to ride in the elevated
bucket of an excavator. A fine of $2,500 is proposed for that item.
Gordon encouraged southeastern Massachusetts employers and employees with
questions regarding excavation safety or other workplace safety and health
concerns to contact the OSHA area office in Braintree at 617-565-6924 and added
that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may
be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent
danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
Specifically, $57,500 in penalties are proposed against P.A. Landers, Inc.,
One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $55,000, for:
-- employees exposed to -- and one employee suffered -- serious injury while
working in a five-to-nine-foot-deep trench which lacked collapse protection;
One alleged Serious violation, with a proposed penalty of $2,500, for:
-- failure to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to
cause death or serious physical harm in that an employee exposed to serious injury
while riding in the bucket of an excavator.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional
disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational
Safety and Health Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial
probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer
knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue
standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and
healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections
that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed
penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an
informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the
independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.