Potentially fatal cave-in hazards at a Chelsea work site have resulted in $34,400 in proposed fines for Tufts Inc., a Medford, Mass., contractor. Responding to a complaint on July 2, OSHA inspectors from the Andover Area Office observed workers installing a sewer pipe in an unprotected 7-foot-deep excavation at 30 High St.
OSHA found that workers in the excavation not only lacked protection against a potential wall collapse, they were also without a ladder or other safe means of entry or egress. Additionally, water had begun to accumulate and potentially undermine the bottom of the excavation, while asphalt at the top of the excavation was not supported to keep from falling on the workers.
"These workers could have been crushed and buried in seconds without a chance to react or escape," said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's area director for Essex and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts. "Of special concern is that this employer knew of these hazards, but did not correct them before workers entered the excavation."
Safety Video: Excavations in Construction/Trenching
As a result of these conditions, OSHA issued the company one willful citation carrying a $28,000 fine for the unprotected excavation, and three serious citations carrying $6,400 in fines for the remaining hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. 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.
OSHA standards require that excavations five feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Means of protection can include shoring the excavation's side walls, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or use of a protective trench box. For more information about excavation safeguards, visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
Tufts 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.