ANDOVER, MA - A Hyde Park contractor with a long history of violating workplace safety standards faces a total of $354,000 in new proposed fines from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, chiefly for exposing its employees to cave-in hazards at work sites in Cambridge and Framingham. Since 2000, P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., which is primarily engaged in the construction of underground water and sewer mains, had been cited seven times for repeat violations of OSHA's trenching and excavation safety standards prior to the citations resulting from these most recent inspections.
"Employers who ignore basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards will face substantial fines and consequences," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
The Cambridge inspection was opened when an OSHA inspector observed a Gioioso employee working in an unprotected trench on Kimball Street. During the inspection, a section of the trench wall collapsed while the employee was still in the trench. The second inspection, at Grant and C Streets in Framingham, began after a concerned passer-by informed OSHA of workers in an unguarded trench. In both cases, OSHA found that the trenches lacked cave-in protection and a ladder or other safe means for workers to exit the trenches.
As a result of these conditions, OSHA has cited P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. for four willful violations, each carrying the maximum allowable penalty of $70,000. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
"An unguarded excavation is only seconds away from becoming a grave," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "While the worker in the Cambridge trench was fortunate not to have been injured when the trench's sidewall collapsed, worker safety must not and can never be left to fortune. Responsible employers ensure that effective safety measures are in place and in use before their workers enter a trench."
The contractor also has been cited for five serious violations, with $32,000 in fines, for allowing employees to be exposed to being struck by the counterweight of an excavator at the Cambridge work site and a variety of other hazards at the Framingham work site. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Finally, P. Gioioso and Sons Inc. has been issued three repeat citations with $42,000 in fines for trenching and electrical hazards at the Framingham work site, including failing to maintain the minimum clearance between an energized power line and excavating equipment. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. In this case, OSHA had cited the employer in 2009 for similar hazards at work sites in Somerville, Tewksbury and Boston.
This latest significant enforcement action qualifies P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. for placement in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on the program, visit http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf.
OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Protection can be provided through shoring, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by use of a protective trench box. Detailed information on excavation hazards and safeguards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Both inspections were conducted by OSHA's Andover Area Office; telephone 978-837-4460. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).