“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

“National Trench Safety Releases Mobile App for the Excavation Industry”

National Trench Safety announced its new NTS Mobile App for the Excavation Construction Industry.

National Trench Safety, LLC (NTS), a Houston-based company specializing in the rental and sales of trench and traffic safety equipment, trench and traffic safety engineering, and OSHA-compliant training classes, officially announced the release of the NTS Mobile App designed specifically for anyone working with Trench and Traffic Safety equipment.

“We’re really pleased to be announcing the rollout of the new NTS Mobile App,” commented Ron Chilton, President of NTS. “We believe we have created a tool with a lot of unique functionality built into this app that will make it a must have item for contractors and their crews. This app is a total handheld resource that contractors should find highly valuable. Our app is not an advertising tool, but rather this app puts all of the specific tools a contractor needs and is required to have on any job site in the palm of his or her hand. One of the features we’re most excited about is the app’s ability to allow a contractor’s Competent Person to complete an electronic excavation daily checklist, to log that checklist for future reference and the ability to print, text and or email those logs.” The NTS Mobile app will also provide real-time access to and the ability to print, text and or email manufacturer’s tabulated data, product depth ratings and weights, OSHA sloping and benching tables, and all relevant OSHA excavation, confined space, and fall protection standards.

“As technology has permeated our industry and culture, it’s made some really unique things possible that weren’t feasible as little as a decade ago,” remarked Chilton. “The NTS Mobile app is the first of a series of technology related services we’ll be introducing over the next year. We also remained committed to bringing new products to the market and have a couple planned product launches for later in the year.”

The NTS Mobile App is currently available on the AppleTM Store for both the iPad and iPhone and will be available for download for Android phones on the GoogleTM Play Store in late February. The app is offered free of charge to users. NTS has several updates planned for the app over the next few months to further enhance the functionality of the app and will be actively seeking feedback from the app’s user community to enhance its value to the construction industry. To learn more about the NTS Mobile App, its features and how to download it please visit us at http://www.ntsafety.com/ntsmobileapp.

National Trench Safety currently has 30 branch locations within the United States. This large national foot print allows NTS to provide its national, regional and local market customers a fully integrated, national branch network delivering unique engineered solutions, the highest level of customer service and the most cost-effective shoring solutions in the industry.

In maintaining its objective of building a nationwide network of trench and traffic safety branches, NTS plans to open several additional branch locations in 2017. For more information about NTS, visit the National Trench Safety website at http://www.ntsafety.com.

“Confined Spaces – “What To Do Before You Enter” #ConfinedSpace #StayAlive

80% of fatalities happened in locations that had been previously entered by the same person who later died.

Each year, an average of 92 fatalities occurs from confined spaces locations due to asphyxiation, acute or chronic poisoning, or impairment.

But, what is a “confined space?”

A confined space is a space that:

  1. Is large enough and so arranged that an employee can bodily enter it;
  2. Has limited or restricted means for entry and exit;
  3. Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Examples of confined spaces include:

  • Sewers
  • Storm drains
  • Water mains
  • Pits
  • And many more

Permit-required confined spaces include:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space
  • Has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards

Here are some steps you can take to help ensure the safety of your workers.

1. Is This a Confined Space?

2. Is the Atmosphere Safe?

Testing must be done in several levels of the space because specific hazardous gases react differently to the rest of the atmosphere. Why? Hydrogen Sulfide is slightly heavier than air, while other dangerous gases such as methane may be lighter than air and rise to the top. Only by testing all levels of the tank you are about to enter can you be reasonably sure the atmosphere is acceptable for breathing.

3. How Do I Exit Safely?

Before you start thinking about entering, first make sure you can get back out. Meaning you have a rescue plan and are working with someone else who can provide for rescue.

If you don’t have a rescue plan, don’t enter.

4. How Do I Enter Safely?

Does the job or project require special equipment to get in and out of the space, such as a body harness?

5. Will The Atmosphere Stay Safe?

Once you’ve established that the atmosphere is safe to enter, you next have to know that it will stay that way. Which leads us to our next point.

6. Does the Space Need Ventilating?

If the air is found to be unsafe within the confined space because of existing fumes or gas, or if the work being done will contribute to a degradation of the breathable atmosphere, the space needs to be ventilated and you need to be using an air monitoring device.

7. Equipment Check

It’s important to check your equipment before beginning any sort of confined space entry work. Has your gas detector been bump-tested or recently calibrated? Have all lanyards and lifelines been checked for wear? Have harnesses been properly stored?

8. Lighting

Confined spaces are often cramped, dark and awkwardly shaped. A well-lit worksite helps workers avoid injury.

9. Communication

Radios are a great way to stay connected with workers, but also keep in mind that, nothing can replace having a standby worker positioned at the exit when workers are in a confined space. This tried and true system allows the outside person not only to communicate with workers within the space but also to call for help if it is needed.

10. Are you and your crew up to the task?

Can each team member be relied upon in a life-threatening situation?

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, check the OSHA Standards for that.

Stop to consider the dangers before you enter, and be mindful that confined spaces can become dangerous after you have entered.

Source: Vivid Learning Systems – Safety Toolbox

“OSHA Issues Special Zika Guidance to Employers”

Emergency Preparedness and Response   Interim guidance for protecting workers from occupational exposure to Zika virus

Highlights

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued “interim guidance” to provide employers and workers information and advice on preventing occupational exposure to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The guidance’s recommended actions (Control & Prevention) for employers and general outdoor workers include the following:

  • Employers should inform workers about their risks of exposure.
  • Employers should provide workers insect repellants and encourage their use. Workers should use the repellants.
  • Employers should provide workers with clothing that covers their hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin and encourage them to wear the clothing. They also should consider providing workers with hats with mosquito netting that covers the neck and face. Workers should wear the provided clothing, as well as socks that cover the ankles and lower legs.
  • In warm weather, employers should encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, which provides a barrier to mosquitos. Workers should wear this type of clothing.
  • Employers and workers should eliminate sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, and barrels), which are considered mosquito breeding areas. Employers should train workers to recognize the importance of getting rid of these breeding areas at worksites.
  • If requested, employers should consider reassigning to indoor tasks any female worker who indicates she is pregnant or may become pregnant, as well as any male worker who has a sexual partner who is pregnant or may become pregnant. Workers in these circumstances should talk to their supervisors about outdoor work assignments.
  • Workers should seek medical attention “promptly” if symptoms from infection develop.

Employers and workers in healthcare and laboratory settings are advised to follow good infection control and biosafety practices (including universal precautions) as appropriate and specific biosafety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for working with the Zika virus in the laboratory.

OSHA also noted that mosquito control workers may require additional precautions — more protective clothing and enhanced skin protection — beyond those recommended for general outdoor workers. Workers who mix, load, apply, or perform other tasks involving wide-area (or area) insecticides may need additional protection to prevent or reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals. When applying insecticides, these workers may require respirators, worn in accordance with OSHA’s respirator standard.

For employers of workers with suspected or confirmed Zika virus, OSHA recommends “general guidance.” This includes making certain supervisors and potentially exposed workers know about Zika symptoms, training workers to receive immediate medical attention after suspected exposure, and considering options for providing sick leave during the infectious period.

Employers with workers who travel to or through Zika-affected areas, such as travel industry employees, airline crews, and cruise line workers, the agency recommends following certain “precautions” outlined by the CDC, including flexible travel and leave policies and delaying travel to Zika-affected areas.

Sources: OSHA, Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2016
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