Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Department of Labor Logo
OSHA News Release
Region 1

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.
Region 1 News Release: 06-1876-BOS/BOS 2006-316
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074

Unguarded 21-foot Deep Trench in Coventry Leads to $41,000 in Fines from U.S. Labor Department's OSHA for Warwick Contractor

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Warwick contractor faces $41,000 in fines from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for allegedly allowing employees to work in a 21-foot deep trench that lacked protection against cave-ins. RICO Corp. was cited for a total of five alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following a June 8 OSHA inspection of a sewer-installation work site on Hopkins Hill Rd. in Coventry.

"Effective cave-in protection is essential since the walls of a trench can collapse without warning, crushing and burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they can react or escape," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director in Rhode Island. "While it's fortunate that no cave-in occurred, safety should never be a matter of luck. The potential for death or serious injury was clear and present."

OSHA also found that the trench lacked a safe means of exit, excavated materials were stored less than two feet away from its edge and an employee working inside the trench lacked a helmet to protect against falling debris. In addition, employees were exposed to injuries from a severely damaged trench box that had been used earlier at the jobsite.

OSHA issued a willful citation with a $35,000 fine for the lack of cave-in protection and four serious citations, carrying $6,000 in fines, for the other items. 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.

OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on excavation safety, including a trenching "Quick Card," is available for employers and workers on OSHA's Web site at

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. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Providence area office at (401) 528-4669.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace 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


U.S. Labor Department releases are accessible on the Internet at The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call (202) 693-7765 or TTY (202) 693-7755. DOL is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit