OSHA Cites Employer in Boston Trench Collapse; Proposes $1,475,813 in Penalties

 
Friday, April 21, 2017
 

Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks died on Oct. 21, 2016 in Boston, when the approximately 12-foot deep trench in which they were working collapsed, breaking an adjacent fire hydrant supply line and filling the trench with water in a matter of seconds.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that their employer, Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc., failed to provide basic safeguards against collapse and did not train its employees – including Higgins and Mattocks – to recognize and avoid cave-in and other hazards.

“The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented. Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA's New England regional administrator.

OSHA's inspection determined that Atlantic Drain and owner Kevin Otto, who oversaw the work on the day of the fatalities, did not:

  • Install a support system to protect employees in an approximately 12-foot deep trench from a cave-in and prevent the adjacent fire hydrant from collapsing.
  • Remove employees from the hazardous conditions in the trench.
  • Train the workers in how to identify and address hazards associated with trenching and excavation work.
  • Provide a ladder at all times so employees could exit the trench.
  • Support structures next to the trench that posed overhead hazards.
  • Provide employees with hardhats and eye protection.
  • As a result, OSHA has cited Atlantic Drain for a total of 18 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards and is proposing $1,475,813 in penalties for those violations. OSHA cited Atlantic Drain trenching worksites for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012.
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