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News » US » Boston contractor faces $1.4m fines over fatal trench collapse » published 13 Apr 2017

Boston contractor faces $1.4m fines over fatal trench collapse

The employer of two workers killed in a trench collapse in Boston failed to provide safety training and basic safeguards, an investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has found.

OSHA runs campaigns trying to improve awareness of safety measures needed in trenches Above: OSHA runs campaigns trying to improve awareness of safety measures needed in trenches

Atlantic Drain Service Co Inc has been cited for a total of 18 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards and is proposing US$1,475,813 in penalties for the violations. OSHA had cited Atlantic Drain trenching sites for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012.

Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks died on 21 October 2016 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 OSHA 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,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “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.”

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.

In February, a Suffolk County grand jury indicted Atlantic Drain and company owner, Kevin Otto, on two counts each of manslaughter and other charges in connection with the deaths. OSHA and the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor worked with the department’s Office of the Inspector General, the Boston Police Department’s Homicide Unit and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office during the course of the investigation.

Atlantic Drain has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to meet with OSHA’s area director, and to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission, if it chooses to do so.

 

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This article was published on 13 Apr 2017 (last updated on 13 Apr 2017).

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