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Region 1 News Release:    BOS 99-236
Monday, December 27, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074

OSHA CITES CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL TRENCHING SAFETY VIOLATION ON EXETER, NEW HAMPSHIRE, WATER MAIN PROJECT; OVER $57,000 IN FINES PROPOSED AGAINST FIORE CONSTRUCTION CO., INC., OF LEOMINSTER, MASS.

Following an inspection at an Exeter, New Hampshire, excavation worksite, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Fiore Construction Co., Inc., for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and has proposed penalties totaling $57,800. This marks the third time this year that OSHA has cited the Leominster, Massachusetts-based contractor for alleged trenching safety violations on an Exeter water main installation project.

According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated October 14, 1999, in response to reports of an accident in an excavation located at the intersection of Front and Court Streets in Exeter, where Fiore was installing water mains for the Town of Exeter. A Fiore employee was injured when a section of pipe that was being lowered into an unprotected trench slipped and pinned him against the trench's sidewall.

"The inspection found that the trench in question, which was six to eight feet in depth, lacked any form of cave-in protection to prevent a collapse of its sidewalls onto anyone working in that trench," said May. "Collapse protection is essential since the sides of a trench can collapse with great force and without warning, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape. Though no collapse occurred in this case, that in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility of providing this baseline, well-known -- and required -- safeguard."

May explained that OSHA's excavation safety standard requires that excavations five feet or deeper must have a protective system in place to prevent cave-ins. Such protection can be supplied by shoring the trench's sidewalls or by sloping those sidewalls at a shallow angle. Yet, he noted, neither safeguard was in place or in use in the excavation at the time of the inspection.

"Of special concern is the fact that this is the third time this year OSHA has cited this contractor under this standard on this project," he said. "OSHA has no choice but to categorize the trenching citation as willful, its most severe category. Willful citations are issued only when OSHA believes, based on its inspection, that the employer knew what measures were required to protect workers yet apparently elected to ignore them."

Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties from this latest inspection encompass:

One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $55,000, for:

  • employees working within a trench that was not adequately sloped or shored against collapse.

One alleged Serious violation, with a proposed penalty of $2,800, for:

  • a damaged synthetic web sling was not removed from service.

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.

Previously, OSHA issued a willful trenching safety citation, with a proposed fine of $55,000, to Fiore on June 14, following its inspection of a trench located on Water Street and a Serious trenching safety citation with a $1,000 proposed fine was issued to the contractor on August 16, following an inspection of another Water Street trench. Both citations are currently under contest.

Fiore Construction, Co., Inc., which is based at 133 Rear Nashua Street in Leominster, 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.

May urged Granite State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Concord 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.

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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.


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.


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