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OSHA fines Massachusetts Contractor $1.5M for 18 Violations in Fatal Trench Collapse

The fines stem from a trench accident that killed two workers on October 21, 2016 in Boston, MA.

Atlantic Drain Service Co. employees Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks were killed while working in a 12-foot-deep trench that collapsed and broke a fire hydrant supply line. The trench then filled with water within seconds.

OSHA investigation concluded that Atlantic Drain Service Co. did not provide basic trench safeguards against collapse and did not train the employees to recognize hazardous conditions.osha citations

“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.

The walls of an unprotected trench can collapse suddenly and with great force, trapping and engulfing workers before they have a chance to react or escape. Protection against cave-in hazards may be provided through shoring of the trench walls, sloping the soil, or by using a protective trench box. Employers must ensure that workers enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-in hazards. More information about protecting employees in trenches and excavations can be found here and here.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the nearest OSHA Area Office.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful working conditions for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure 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.