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Region 1 News Release: 09-1191-BOS/BOS 2009-329
Tues., Oct. 6, 2009
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

Pittsfield, N.H., contractor faces $55,000 in fines from U.S. Labor Department's OSHA following cave-in at Littleton, N.H., jobsite
Collapse occurred minutes after worker exited excavation

CONCORD, N.H. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a total of $55,000 in fines against Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. of Pittsfield, N.H., for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following a cave-in at a Main St. sewer installation worksite in Littleton, N.H.

An OSHA inspector opened an inspection upon observing a Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. employee working in an apparently unprotected 10- to 11-foot deep excavation. Five minutes after the worker was instructed to exit the excavation, one of its sidewalls collapsed. Had the worker still been in the excavation, he could have been crushed or buried by the cave-in.

"This is a textbook example of how an excavation can become a grave in seconds," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director for New Hampshire. "This worker was fortunate - this time. However, worker safety cannot and must not be a matter of luck. Never permit one of your employees into an excavation until its walls are guarded against collapse."

OSHA issued Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $49,000, for not guarding the excavation against collapse, and three serious citations with $6,000 in fines for not supporting an undermined section of sidewalk to prevent its collapse into the excavation, no safe means for workers to exit the excavation and lack of confined space training and equipment.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. Serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapses before workers enter them. Detailed information on excavation hazards and safeguards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the finding before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Concord Area Office; telephone 603-225-1629.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department 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 www.dol.gov/compliance.


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