Region 1 News Release: 11-1528-BOS/BOS 2011-363
Oct. 26, 2011
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Cave-in hazard at Hanover, Mass., job site leads to $161,000 in proposed fines
for Boston contractor Walsh Corp. from US Labor Department OSHA
Employee worked in unprotected trench below crumbling asphalt, lacked exit ladder
BRAINTREE, Mass. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Walsh Corp., a contractor based in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards for failing to protect an employee at a Hanover work site against cave-in and "struck-by" hazards. The contractor faces a total of $161,000 in proposed fines.
Walsh Corp. was installing a water main at 58 Rockland St. when an OSHA inspector observed an employee working in an unprotected straight-walled trench more than 5 feet deep that lacked protection to keep its walls from caving in. The pavement around the trench was undermined and not removed or supported to prevent it from falling into the trench; the trench lacked a ladder or other safe means of exit; the worker lacked head protection against falling debris; and the competent person on-site, who had the knowledge to identify and the authority to correct these hazards, did not remove the employee from the unprotected trench.
"These conditions could have been a precursor to death or severe injury for this worker," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "The walls of this trench could have collapsed in seconds and engulfed him in tons of soil and debris. In recognition of the severity of these hazards, as well as this employer's knowledge and failure to correct them, we are proposing the maximum allowable fine for each cited condition."
Two willful violations with $140,000 in proposed fines were cited for the cave-in and missing ladder hazards, and three serious violations with $21,000 in fines were cited for the remaining hazards. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Walsh_Corp_315140897_10-13-11.pdf*.
OSHA standards require that trenches or excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse through shoring, sloping of the soil or use of a protective trench box. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards and safe working procedures is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
Walsh Corp. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Braintree Area Office.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Braintree office at 617-565-2074.
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 ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.