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Region 1 News Release:   BOS 2000-139
Wednesday, September 27, 2000
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074

62,300 in fines proposed vs. Waters Construction Company

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has completed an inspection prompted by the death of a worker at a construction site on Interstate 95 in Orange, Connecticut. OSHA has cited Waters Construction Company, of Bridgeport, Conn., the contractor which employed the deceased worker, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and has proposed $62,300 in fines against the company.

On May 3, 2000, employees of Waters Construction Company were working inside an excavation located adjacent to the March Hill Road ramp (Exit 41) on I-95 Northbound in Orange when an Akerman excavator slid into the excavation, striking two workers, fatally injuring one of them.

According to Clifford S. Weston, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, the alleged violations chiefly concern the contractor's failure to follow basic excavation safety requirements. Weston explained that the sides of the five-to-ten foot deep excavation in which the employees were working lacked cave-in protection and that the blade of the Akerman excavator was set too close to the edge of the excavation, a location from where the machine could -- and did -- fall into the unprotected hole. In addition, the location at which the employees were working lacked a ladder or other safe means of exiting and entering the excavation.

"There was nothing to prevent the sides of the excavation, which ranged from five to ten feet in height in this location, from caving in on employees while they worked inside," he said. "This hazard was exacerbated by the placement of the excavator and piles of excavated spoils close to the edge. These two factors left the workers exposed to the twin hazards of being buried in a collapse and having the equipment and excavated spoils fall on top of them."

Weston emphasized that OSHA standards mandate that excavations five feet or more in depth be protected against collapse. A variety of safeguards, ranging from sloping the sides at a shallow angle to shoring the sidewalls, among others, may be utilized, but an effective form of cave-in protection must be in place before workers enter the excavation. In addition, equipment, materials and excavated soil must be stored at least two feet back from the edge of the excavation both to avoid their weakening the sides and to prevent their rolling or falling into the excavation.

"There's nothing unusual or complex about these safety requirements nor is there any acceptable reason for an employer's failure to satisfy them," he said. "Simply put, had these safeguards been in place and in use, this accident would not have happened."

Specifically, the citations and $62,300 in proposed fines encompass:

  • One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $56,000, for:
    - employees exposed to cave-in hazards while working in an excavation, the sides of which were 5 to 10 feet high, which was not protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system.

  • Two alleged Serious violations, with $6,300 in proposed penalties, for:
    - employees not protected from equipment or excavated materials which could fall or roll into the excavation due to their being placed less than 2 feet from its edge;
    -- a ladder or other means of exit not provided where employees had to climb a catch basin to access the surface.

Waters Construction Company, headquartered at 300 Bostwick Avenue in Bridgeport, employs approximately 75 workers, 14 of whom were working at the jobsite at the time of the accident.

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.

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.

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.

Weston urged Connecticut employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Bridgeport or Hartford 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.

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 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.

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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