Trade News Release
Thursday, September 2, 1999
CONTACT: Ted Fitzgerald/John M. Chavez
PHONE: (617) 565-2074/5
OSHA CITES STONEHAM, MASS., CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL, REPEAT AND SERIOUS TRENCHING SAFETY VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING INSPECTION OF BILLERICA, MASS., WORKSIT
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited A.V. Construction Co., a Stoneham, Massachusetts, excavation contractor, for alleged Willful, Repeat and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an inspection at a Billerica, Mass., jobsite and has proposed penalties totaling $21,000.
According to K. Frank Gravitt, OSHA area director in Methuen, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated July 6, 1999, in response to employee complaints about an unprotected trench at a sewer installation site located on Pratt Street in Billerica.
"The inspection found an employee working in a nine-foot deep trench that lacked any protection against a collapse of its sidewalls onto that worker," said Gravitt, who noted that this is the second time in less than a year that OSHA has cited A. V. Construction for inadequate collapse protection. "Collapse protection can be provided by shoring the trench walls, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by use of a protective trench box, yet none of these safeguards were being utilized.
"Cave-in protection is an absolute necessity since the walls of a trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape," Gravitt said. "Given that 35 American workers died in trench collapses in 1997, there is no excuse for an employer to fail to provide such protection where it is required, especially when that employer has previously been put on notice for this type of hazard."
In this case, Gravitt explained, the citation for lack of cave-in protection has been classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation. OSHA issues willful citations only when it believes based on its inspection that the employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected not to provide them.
"The inspection also identified instances where the contractor allegedly failed to provide employee training, ensure that employees wore hardhats where they were exposed to possible head injuries and failed to provide a ladder or other safe means of exit from the trench," he said. "The fact that no collapse occurred in this case in no way releases an employer from the responsibility to adhere to basic, well-known, common-sense safety standards."
Specifically, the citations and $21,000 in proposed penalties encompass:
- One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed fine of $14,000, for:
- -failure to ensure that each employee in an excavation was provided with adequate protection from cave-ins.(This employer had previously been cited for a substantially similar violation in an OSHA citation issued November 23, 1998, following an inspection at a worksite located on Forrest Street in Methuen).
- [A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.]
- One alleged Repeat violation, with a $4,000 penalty proposed, for:
- -failure to provide a ladder, stairway, ramp or other means of safe egress from a nine-foot deep trench (This employer had previously been cited for a substantially similar violation in an OSHA citation issued November 23, 1998, following an inspection at a worksite located on Forrest Street in Methuen).
- [A repeated violation is defined as one that is issued when OSHA identifies an alleged violation that is substantially similar to one for which an employer was cited as the result of an earlier OSHA inspection and that earlier citation has become final.]
- Two alleged Serious violations, with $3,000 in proposed penalties, for:
- - failure to ensure that each employee was instructed in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to excavating and the installation of sewer systems;
- -failure to ensure that employees were provided hardhats while working in areas where there was a possible danger of head injuries.
- [A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.]
Gravitt urged employers and employees in Middlesex and Essex counties with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Methuen at 617-565-8110 and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
He also reminded employers and workers that the Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits discrimination against employees for reporting an unsafe working condition to OSHA or for participating in an OSHA inspection. Workers who believe they have been fired or otherwise punished by an employer for doing so have up to thirty days from the alleged discrimination to file a complaint with OSHA.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.