“Employer In Fatal Boston Trench Collapse Did Not Provide Safety Training & Basic Safeguards For Employees, OSHA Finds”

Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc. cited for 18 violations

BOSTON – Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks died on Oct. 21, 2016, in Boston, 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 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration 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. 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.

As a result, OSHA has cited Atlantic Drain for a total of 18 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards and is proposing $1,475,813 in penalties for those violations. OSHA cited Atlantic Drain trenching worksites for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012. The full citations can be viewed here.

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 this 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 and Health Review Commission, if it chooses to do so.

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.

“We want to emphasize to all employers that trenching hazards can have catastrophic consequences if they are not addressed effectively before employees enter a trench,” said Blanton.

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.

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Media Contacts:

Ted Fitzgerald, 617-565-2075, fitzgerald.edmund@dol.gov
James C. Lally, 617-565-2074, lally.james.c@dol.gov

Release Number:  17-413-BOS

Here Is WHY Trenching Safety Training IS Required!

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“Excavation & Trenching Safety” #ConstructionSafety @StopThinkPrevnt

Trenching and Excavation Safety

Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. OSHA defines an excavation as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the earth’s surface formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and is no wider than 15 feet (4.5 meters).

Dangers of Trenching and Excavation
Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities. Other potential hazards include falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving mobile equipment. Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.

Protect Yourself
Do not enter an unprotected trench! Trenches 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Trenches 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep or greater require that the protective system be de-signed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/ or approved by a registered professional engineer.

Protective Systems
There are different types of protective systems. Sloping involves cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation. Shoring requires installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement and cave ins. Shielding protects workers by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins. Designing a protective system can be complex because you must consider many factors: soil classification, depth of cut, water content of soil, changes due to weather or climate, surcharge loads (eg., spoil, other materials to be used in the trench) and other operations in the vicinity.

Competent Person

OSHA standards require that trenches be inspected daily and as conditions change by a competent person prior to worker entry to ensure elimination of excavation hazards. A competent person is an individual who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards or working conditions that are hazardous, unsanitary, or dangerous to employees and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or control these hazards and conditions.

Access and Egress
OSHA requires safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of exit for employees working in trench excavations 4 feet (1.22 meters) or deeper. These devices must be located within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of all workers.

General Trenching and Excavation Rules

  • Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
  • Keep surcharge loads at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) from trench edges.
  • Know where underground utilities are located.
  • Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases.
  • Inspect trenches at the start of each shift.
  • Inspect trenches following a rainstorm.
  • Do not work under raised loads.

Additional Information
Visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics web page on trenching and excavation at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/ index.html

Highlights

“The OSHA Information Void: Former Official Steps Up”

Why is the former second in command at OSHA publishing news about serious OSHA enforcement cases? Keep reading to learn more.

Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA from 2009 to 2017, has rekindled Confined Space, A Newsletter of Workplace Safety and Labor Issues, which he started in the early 2000s. In an introductory post, he noted that motivations for restarting the online publication included “repeals of recently issued OSHA regulations and ‘regulatory reform’ initiatives in the White House and Congress that would remove protections from workers.”

One of Barab’s concerns is that under the Trump administration, OSHA appears to no longer be issuing press releases for significant enforcement cases, as was common during the Obama years.

“OSHA is a very small agency and has to leverage its resources because it can only get to a tiny number of workplaces each year,” says Barab. Issuing a “good press release” not only impacts the company that was cited, but also gets the attention of businesses in the same geographic area or industry, he claims.

He notes that the Trump administration is continuing to cite and fine employers that run afoul of OSHA regulations. But at the moment, the agency seems to have succumbed to industry pressure to issue fewer press releases that describe enforcement actions. Barab attributes that problem in part to “political paralysis” and notes that Secretary of Labor nominee Alexander Acosta has not yet been confirmed, and there is currently no Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, the post formerly held by David Michaels, PhD.

According to Barab, OSHA was issuing press releases about enforcement cases when proposed penalties reached $70,000 or above when Obama took office in 2008. That figure was then lowered to $40,000. Also, Barab recalls, “We tried to increase the impact by adding more descriptive wording in plain English about what standards were violated.” Press releases from OSHA and other regulatory agencies are read by employers, employees, and serve to inform the media.

Barab says his online newsletter will focus on transparency in an effort to provide the public with information about worker safety that may not be available from other sources.

– See more at: http://ehsdailyadvisor.blr.com/2017/04/osha-information-void-former-official-steps/#sthash.QucW4fsa.dpuf

Source: BLR

“Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety”

OSHA inspection-1

Every October the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff. One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations, and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features a lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprits here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long-term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and a high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment. Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known. Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive.

OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Source: OSHA -Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

“What Should You Do When OSHA Shows Up At Your Door” #OSHA #Inspection

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1/27/2017 by Krista Sterken  | Foley & Lardner LLP

You arrive at work bright and early, only to find that someone beat you there — OSHA is waiting to perform an inspection. Now what? Many employers think they have little say in what happens next. Actually, employers have many choices to make, starting as soon as OSHA arrives.

The first thing step is simply bringing the compliance officer to a conference room or other appropriate location. You should select a location that is private and located close to the entrance, so you do not have to walk the compliance officer through any more of your facility than necessary. If the compliance officer happens to see something that may be a violation, this could provide the basis for a citation and/or expansion of the inspection.

Next, it is time to collect some information — you need to understand why OSHA is there. There are three main types of inspections: complaint inspections (conducted in response to a safety complaint), report inspections (conducted in response to a report of an employee death, injury, or illness), and program inspections (conducted under one of OSHA’s emphasis programs, which focus on particular industries or hazards). In some cases, a previous citation might provide the basis for a follow-up inspection.

You also need to know what OSHA intends to do. The inspection should be tailored to the reason for the visit. For example, a complaint inspection should be limited to areas related to the complaint. Program inspections are dictated by the focus of the program — you can obtain more information from OSHA’s website. All inspections should follow OSHA’s Field Operations Manual.

Finally, you must decide whether to agree to OSHA’s inspection plan. If OSHA identified a legitimate basis for the inspection and an appropriate inspection plan, then you might decide to allow the inspection to begin. However, if you have concerns, you have the right to refuse entry and require OSHA to return with a warrant (unless there is an imminent danger, in which case OSHA must be permitted immediate entry). If you require a warrant, OSHA will have to persuade a judge that its intended inspection is appropriate.

Employers are often nervous about requiring a warrant. However, you have the right to do so. OSHA understands this, and is not permitted to retaliate against you in any way. Requiring a warrant can be an effective way to impose fair parameters for the inspection.

Once the inspection has started, you are only at the very beginning of the process. Because there will be countless other important decisions, involve counsel early (preferably, as soon as OSHA arrives). Every company should also give some advance thought to its “OSHA plan,” identifying specifically how a request for inspection will be handled long before a compliance officer shows up on the company’s doorstep.

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