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Region 1 News Release: 09-367-BOS/BOS 2009-103
Tues., April 14, 2009
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

U.S. Labor Department's OSHA proposes $60,000 in fines against Taunton, Mass., contractor for Winthrop Street cave-in hazard
OSHA reminds area employers of their responsibility to protect excavations

BOSTON - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $60,000 in fines against G. Lopes Construction Inc. for allegedly failing to provide cave-in protection for employees working in a 6-foot, 3-inch-deep excavation located in front of 156 Winthrop St. in Taunton, Mass.

"These citations highlight one of the most dangerous hazards in construction work," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "An unguarded excavation can collapse in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape."

OSHA inspectors driving by the site on Oct. 28, 2008, stopped and opened the inspection after they observed company workers installing a drain line in the excavation. They found the excavation's sidewalls were insufficiently shored to prevent their collapse and lack of a ladder or other safe means of exit.

As a result, OSHA issued the company one willful citation, with a proposed $56,000 fine, for the lack of cave-in protection and one serious citation, with a $4,000 proposed fine, for the absence of a ladder. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health, while a serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"As the construction season gets underway, I'm calling upon employers in southeastern Massachusetts to review their excavation safety procedures to ensure that no worker enters an excavation unless and until it is properly protected against collapse," said Gordon. "Adhering to the rules can prevent serious accidents and save lives."

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on excavation safety is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

G. Lopes Construction has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Boston South Area Office in Braintree, telephone 617-565-6924.

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 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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