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Region 1 News Release: 09-447-BOS/BOS 2009-135
Tues., May 12, 2009
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

U.S. Labor Department's OSHA cites Cambridge, Mass., contractor after workers overcome at Newton, Mass., worksite

ANDOVER, Mass. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Cambridge, Mass., contractor for alleged willful and serious violations of safety and health standards after three of its employees were overcome by lack of oxygen on Oct. 20, 2008, while cleaning underground steam pipes on the Boston College campus in Newton, Mass. Thomas G. Gallagher Inc. faces a total of $71,000 in proposed fines.

OSHA's inspection found that the contractor had not evaluated the oxygen levels in the steam vault in which the employees worked to determine if it would be safe to enter; had not provided a harness and rescue equipment; and had not trained the employees in confined space hazards and precautions, and the protective and emergency equipment required for work in confined spaces.

As a result, OSHA has issued the company one willful citation with a proposed fine of $63,000. OSHA also has issued the company two serious citations, with $8,000 in fines, for not guarding and providing access stairs or a ladder for the manhole through which the employees entered the steam vault.

"While it is fortunate these employees were not killed, this case highlights the dangerous nature of confined space hazards," said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "Oxygen-deficient or toxic atmospheres can swiftly sicken or kill both workers and their rescuers if they are not properly trained and equipped."

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

A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, is not designed for continuous employee occupancy and can contain oxygen-deficient or toxic atmospheres. Detailed information about confined space hazards and safeguards is available on OSHA's Web site at

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in 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 North Area Office in Andover; telephone 978-837-4460.

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


U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at 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

OSHA News Release - Table of Contents

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