The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $115,900 in fines against Revoli Construction Co., North Reading, Massachusetts, for reportedly failing to provide cave-in protection for its workers at a Gloucester job site.
Revoli, which had been hired by the city to install new sewer lines and repair a 20-inch water main, was cited for a total of 12 alleged willful and serious safety violations. On March 16, an OSHA inspector observed two Revoli employees working at Kent Circle in an unprotected 14-foot deep trench without a ladder or other means for workers to swiftly exit in case of a cave-in or other emergency.
“This was an extremely dangerous situation, given that a similar excavation had flooded within seconds when a water main broke in December,” said Francis Pagliuca, OSHA’s area director for Essex and Middlesex counties. “If this trench had collapsed or flooded, workers inside would have been buried beneath tons of soil and rock or engulfed by water without a means of escape. This employer knew safeguards were required and did not provide them, even though there were numerous protective trench boxes and a ladder nearby.”
Pagliuca noted that Revoli has been cited nine times in the past dozen years for not providing cave-in protection, including a 1998 accident in which an employee was partially buried in a trench collapse in Andover, Mass.
OSHA issued two willful citations to Revoli for these conditions and proposed $98,000 in fines. 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.
Other hazards identified during the inspection included: employees not trained to recognize hazardous conditions; employees allowed to work under suspended loads; an undermined trench wall; employees not protected against material rolling or falling into the trench; failure to support an exposed natural gas line; improper ladder use; uninspected and damaged lifting slings, and failure to inspect the trench daily to identify and correct hazards.
These conditions resulted in 10 serious citations with $17,900 in additional proposed penalties. A serious violation is a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Revoli has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply with them, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest them before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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