U.S. Labor Department Secures Decision Affirming Willful and Serious Trenching Violations

Judge upholds $91,200 in fines against Boston contractor.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the following Region 1 news release:

The U.S. Department of Labor has won a decision from an administrative law judge upholding eight citations and $91,200 in fines issued to a Boston contractor for excavation and other construction safety hazards. The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Shawn Telsi, doing business as Life Time Homes, Green Pines and/or Telsi Builders, following an August 2009 inspection of a construction site at 394 Dedham St. in Newton, Mass.

During that inspection, OSHA found employees working without cave-in protection in an excavation up to 14 feet deep. The excavation lacked a safe means of exit and had piles of soil stored at its edge. Employees also risked impalement upon unguarded steel rebar, falls into uncovered 7-foot-deep holes and injuries from lack of head protection.

OSHA cited Telsi in February 2010, and the company contested its citations and fines to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission the following month. A hearing was held in Boston on Sept. 28, 2010, before Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney. Rooney recently ruled, upholding the four willful and four serious citations, and the monetary penalties issued by OSHA.

"Serious, life-threatening hazards remained uncorrected even after they were brought to this employer's attention," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "In one instance, had the unprotected 14-foot-high excavation wall collapsed, it would have engulfed workers who were pouring concrete formwork and crushed them beneath tons of concrete, soil and debris."

"Employers must understand that they cannot disregard standards meant to protect the life and safety of their employees without facing consequences," said Michael Felsen, the Labor Department's regional solicitor for New England. "This decision not only affirms OSHA's findings, it also shows that the Department of Labor will not hesitate to pursue appropriate legal action on behalf of America's workers."

Telsi has 20 days from the date the administrative law judge's decision is docketed with the review commission to appeal. The safety inspection was conducted by OSHA's Andover Area Office in Massachusetts. The case was litigated for OSHA by senior trial attorney Paul Katz of the department's Boston Regional Solicitor's Office.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission is an independent federal agency created to decide contests of citations or penalties resulting from workplace inspections conducted by OSHA. An employer who is cited by OSHA for an alleged workplace health or safety violation can contest the OSHA citation and have the case heard by a commission administrative law judge, who ultimately issues a decision. The judge's decision can then be appealed to the commission, whose members are presidential appointees.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

OSHRC Docket Number 10-0531 & 10-0787

Secretary of Labor v. Shawn Telsi, doing business as Life Time Homes, Green Pines and/or Telsi Builders

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