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Region 1 News Release: 08-296-BOS/BOS 2008-081
Mon., March 24, 2008
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

Haverhill, Mass., contractor faces more than $43,000 in U.S. Department of Labor OSHA fines for trenching and ladder hazards at Billerica, Mass., jobsite

METHUEN, Mass. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Haverhill, Mass., contractor for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards at a Billerica, Mass., worksite. Cape Ann Equipment Inc. faces a total of $43,200 in proposed fines.

The citations and fines resulted from an OSHA inspection opened Sept. 17, 2007, when agency inspectors driving by a water main repair site at Boston Road and Cook Street observed a Cape Ann Equipment employee working in a 7-foot-deep trench that lacked any cave-in protection. OSHA standards require that all trenches 5 feet or deeper be guarded against a collapse of their sidewalls.

"The potential for death or serious injury in this or any unguarded trench is real and imminent," said Rose Ohar, OSHA's acting area director in Methuen. "Cave-ins occur suddenly and without warning, crushing employees beneath tons of soil or debris before they can react or escape. That's why collapse protection must always be in place before employees enter a trench."

OSHA has issued Cape Ann Equipment one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $42,000, for the lack of cave-in protection. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

One serious citation, with a $1,200 fine, has been issued for ladder safety deficiencies, including ladder misuse and an exit ladder of insufficient height. 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.

Trenching safety is an OSHA priority. Under OSHA's National Emphasis Program, agency inspectors will stop and open an inspection on the spot when they observe employees working in unprotected trenches, as happened in this case. Detailed information on trenching and excavation safety, including an interactive e-Tool, is also available on OSHA's Web site at

"Employers who are tempted to send their employees into an unprotected trench should reconsider, and not just because an OSHA inspector may spot them," said Ohar. "They should think long and hard about the human, as well as the legal and financial, consequences if that trench collapses and buries employees."

Cape Ann Equipment 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. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Methuen Area Office (telephone 617-565-8110).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote 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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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.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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