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Region 1 News Release: BOS 99-193
Tuesday, October 19, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074
OSHA CITES READING, MASSACHUSETTS, CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL, REPEAT AND SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT KINGSTON, MASS., EXCAVATION SITES; OVER $45,000 IN FINES PROPOSED
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited L. Perrina Construction Company, Inc., of Reading, Massachusetts, for alleged Willful, Repeat and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an inspection at a Kingston, Mass., sewer installation project. OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $45,800.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for southeastern Massachusetts, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection conducted October 5, 1999, at excavation worksites located on Bayview Street and Cobb Street, respectively, in Kingston and chiefly concern a lack of cave-in protection for employees. L. Perrina Construction Co., Inc., of 47 Roma Lane in Reading, had eight employees working onsite at the time of the inspection.
"Employees were found working in an eight-foot deep trench on Bayview Street that lacked any effective protection against its sidewalls caving in on those workers," said Gordon, who explained that such protection could have been provided by shoring the trench's sidewalls, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by use of a protective device known as a trench box.
"This hazard was aggravated by the employer's failure to support or shore up an undermined concrete block catch basin and a section of asphalt pavement, both of which overhung the edges of the trench and could have fallen onto the workers," she said. "In addition, the trench, which was forty-four feet in length, also lacked a ladder or other safe means of exit for the workers."
Gordon noted that a second trench, located on Cobb Street, did have a trench box but that the box was defective due to missing components. The employer also failed to have a competent person -- one with both the knowledge to spot hazards and the authority to correct them -- conduct worksite inspections that could have spotted and fixed these hazards.
"Effective collapse protection is a necessity whenever employees work in an excavation since its walls can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of earth and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Gordon. "While no collapse occurred in this case, that relative good fortune in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility of providing this basic, necessary, common sense safeguard for workers."
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:
- One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $28,000, for:
- -- employees exposed to serious injury while working in an 8-foot deep trench which was not shored nor sloped to prevent a collapse of its sidewalls.
- Two alleged Repeat violations, with proposed penalties of $11,200, for:
- -- employees working in an 8-foot deep, 44-foot long trench were not provided with a ladder or other safe means of exit [The employer had previously been cited by OSHA for a substantially similar violation on May 12, 1999, following an inspection at a Templeton, Mass., worksite].
- -- failure to have the trench inspected by a competent person who could spot and authorize correction of hazards [The employer had previously been cited by OSHA for a substantially similar violation on March 14, 1997, following an inspection at a Wareham, Mass., worksite].
- Three alleged Serious violations, with $6,600 in penalties proposed, for:
- -- a concrete block catch basin that was undermined during trenching operations was not supported to prevent its collapsing into the trench in which employees were working;
- -- undermined asphalt pavement was overhanging the trench in which employees were working;
- -- a trench box was used with missing components.
Gordon urged southeastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Braintree 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.
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.
A repeated violation is defined by OSHA as one where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found.
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.
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.
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