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OSHA News Release
Region 1

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Region 1 News Release: 07-1907-BOS/BOS 2007-383
Wed., Dec. 19, 2007
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

Cave-in hazard in Boston's Back Bay leads to U.S. Labor Department OSHA citations for Walpole, Mass., contractor

BRAINTREE, Mass. -- An unprotected excavation in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood has resulted in the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposing a total of $27,000 in fines against a Walpole, Mass., contractor for a total of five alleged willful and serious violations of excavation safety standards.

Employees of Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc. were performing sewer repair work for the Four Seasons Hotel at the corner of Boylston and Charles Streets when OSHA began its inspection on July 25, after receiving reports of employees working in an unprotected excavation.

OSHA found Atlantic employees working in a 12-feet-deep, straight-cut trench that lacked any protection against a cave-in of its sidewalls. Such protection is required whenever employees enter an excavation five feet or more in depth.

"The walls of an unprotected trench can collapse in an instant and bury employees beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree. "While it's fortunate that no cave-in occurred this time, the possibility of death or serious injury was real and present."

The company was issued one willful citation, carrying a proposed fine of $21,000, for the lack of cave-in protection. A willful violation is one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The inspection also resulted in four serious citations and an additional $6,000 in proposed fines for other trenching-related hazards. These included undermined and unsupported sidewalk sections adjacent to the trench, no hardhats for employees in the trench, a lack of employee training to recognize trenching hazards, and no inspection by a competent person who could have identified and corrected these hazards. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

To help employers understand how to comply with regulations and protect employees, OSHA has posted a trenching "Quick Card," an interactive eTool and other detailed information on excavation safety on its Web site at

Atlantic Drain has 15 business days from receipt of its 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 Braintree Area Office (telephone 617-565-6924).

OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting more than 39,000 inspections in fiscal year 2007 and exceeding its inspection goals in each of the last eight years. In fiscal year 2007, OSHA found more than 89,000 violations of its standards and regulations.

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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