OSHA Cites N.H. Contractor for Cave-In Hazard

September 30, 2004

An Ashland, New Hampshire contractor’s alleged failure to supply cave-in protection at a Woodstock jobsite has resulted in $29,650 in proposed penalties from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

M.E. LaTulippe Construction Inc. has been cited for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an OSHA inspection conducted at a sewer installation site on Rte. 112 in Woodstock. OSHA opened its inspection June 5 after receiving a report that an employee was working in an unprotected excavation.

The inspection reportedly found an employee working in a trench – 5.8 feet to 8.2 feet in depth – that lacked protection against a collapse of its sidewalls. OSHA standards require that excavations deeper than five feet be guarded against collapse by shoring, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by use of a protective trench box. In this case, no protection was used despite the presence of a trench box on the jobsite.

“Cave-in protection is essential since the walls of an excavation can collapse suddenly and with great force, stunning and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape,” said George Kilens, OSHA’s acting area director for New Hampshire. “What’s particularly disturbing in this case is that no trench box was in use even though the employer had, in response to a previous complaint, informed OSHA that such protection was being used.”

As a result, LaTulippe Construction was issued a willful citation, carrying a $28,000 fine, for lack of collapse protection. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

In addition, two excavators and a pile of excavated soil were reportedly located within two feet of the trench’s edge. The trench lacked a ladder or other swift means of worker exit in an emergency and the worker in the trench lacked head protection against falling debris. These conditions resulted in three serious citations and an additional $1,650 in fines. A serious violation is defined as a condition in which there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

M.E. Latulippe Construction, Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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