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OSHA News Release
Region 1

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Region 1 News Release: 07-683-BOS/BOS 2007-126
May 10, 2007
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074



Portsmouth, R.I., contractor faces maximum allowed fine of $70,000 from U.S. Labor Department's OSHA for cave-in hazard at Newport, R.I., site

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Portsmouth, R.I., contractor with a history of trenching safety violations faces $70,000 in proposed fines ¿ the maximum allowed ¿ from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for an unguarded trench at a Newport, R.I., worksite.

An OSHA inspection of a water main installation project located at the intersection of Parker and Bellevue Avenues found an East Coast Construction employee working in a straight-walled, six-foot deep trench that lacked any protection against a cave-in of its sidewalls.

"All excavations five feet or deeper must be protected against collapse, a requirement this employer knows well, having been cited three times previously for lack of cave-in protection" said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director in Rhode Island. "This safeguard is essential since the sidewalls of a trench can collapse and bury workers within seconds. There's no real margin of error and no good excuse for allowing an employee to work in an unprotected trench."

As a result, East Coast Construction was cited for one alleged willful violation of safety standards. OSHA has proposed the maximum allowed fine since the company was cited by OSHA in 2005 and 2006 for similar hazards at worksites in Portsmouth, R.I. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Excavation safety is a top priority for OSHA and the agency's inspectors will stop and open an inspection on the spot if they observe an apparently unprotected trench. Detailed information on excavation safety, including a trenching "Quick Card" and an interactive eTool, is available on OSHA's Web site at

East Coast Construction has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Providence Area Office, telephone (401) 528-4669.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit








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