OSHA Cites Mass. Contractor for Cave-In Hazards

A Dedham, Mass., contractor’s reported failure to supply cave-in protection for employees working at a Lowell, Mass., jobsite has resulted in $52,000 in proposed penalties from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

On April 22, an OSHA inspector observed an employee of Wes Construction installing a concrete pipe in a seven-foot deep excavation in Lowell. The walls of the excavation did not have adequate protection against collapse. OSHA’s inspection also found that employees were not trained in trenching safety standards and could not identify hazards associated with work in excavations.

“This employer knew cave-in protection was required but chose not to provide it,” said Richard Fazzio, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. “Walls of an unprotected trench can collapse suddenly and without warning, burying workers before they can react. While no collapse occurred here, the danger was real and present.”

OSHA issued one willful citation, with a $49,000 proposed fine, to Wes Construction for failing to supply the required cave-in protection and one serious citation, with a $3,000 proposed fine, for not training the workers. OSHA defines a willful violation 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 a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

Wes Construction has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply with them, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest them before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.