Region 1 News Release: BOS 2000-010
Friday, January 21, 2000
Contact: John M. Chavez
PHONE: (617) 565-2075
OSHA CITES NORTH READING, MASS., CONSTRUCTION COMPANY FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL & SERIOUS TRENCHING SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT A WILMINGTON, MASS., EXCAVATION SITE; $81,000 IN PENALTIES PROPOSED
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor has cited Revoli Construction Co., Inc., of North Reading, Massachusetts, for alleged WILLFUL and SERIOUS violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at an excavation site opposite 271 Main Street, Wilmington, Mass. The agency is proposing a total of $81,000 in penalties for the alleged violations.
According to K. Frank Gravitt, OSHA area director for northeastern Massachusetts, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection of the construction site on November 17, 1999. "What our compliance officer found," he said, "included employees working in an unprotected 7 foot deep trench, not wearing hard hats and having no safe means of egress. These employees were exposed to serious injuries or death since the sides of an unprotected trench can collapse with great force and without warning, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape. Though no collapse occurred in this case, that in no way relieves this employer of the responsibility of providing this required safeguard."
Gravitt explained that OSHA's excavation safety standard requires that excavations five feet or deeper must have a protective system in place to prevent cave-ins. Such protection can be supplied by shoring the trench's sidewalls or by sloping those sidewalls at a shallow angle. Yet, he noted, neither safeguard was in place or in use in the excavation at the time of the inspection.
"Most troubling," he said, "is the fact that this employer is quite familiar with OSHA's excavation safety requirements as evidenced, unfortunately, by their past history of safety violations. Over the past 13 years, OSHA has inspected this company's job sites 14 times and has cited this employer for 56 alleged safety and health violations, including around 30 involving trenching safety. Therefore, we have no choice but to cite Revoli Construction Co. for an alleged willful violation of the law."
He explained that 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 the law's regulations. It is, he noted, the most severe category of OSHA violation.
Specifically, the company is being cited for the following alleged safety violations:
- One alleged WILLFUL violation, carrying a $63,000 proposed penalty, for: exposing employees to serious injuries or death while working within an excavation 7 feet deep without sloping, bracing or shoring to prevent collapse of the sidewalls.
- Four alleged SERIOUS violations, including proposed penalties totaling $18,000 for: allowing employees to work within a 7 foot deep trench without hard hats; allowing employees to work within a 7 foot deep trench without a safe means of egress; exposing employees working in a 7 foot deep trench to the hazards of excavated materials stored at the edge of the trench; and, exposing employees to a trench cave-in hazard by failing to have a competent person regularly and frequently inspect the work area. [A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.]
Gravitt urged Northeastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Methuen. He added that OSHA's toll-free nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents and fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially those situations which occur outside of normal business hours.
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, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.