Administrative Law Judge Upholds OSHA Citations for Trenching Violations

It was a good day in court for the Department of Labor when OSHA won a decision from an administrative law judge upholding eight citations and $91,200 in fines issued to a Boston contractor for excavation and other construction safety hazards.

OSHA had cited Shawn Telsi, doing business as Life Time Homes, Green Pines and/or Telsi Builders, following an August 2009 inspection of a construction site in Newton, Mass.

During that inspection, OSHA found employees working without cave-in protection in an excavation up to 14 feet deep. The excavation lacked a safe means of exit and had piles of soil stored at its edge. Employees also risked impalement upon unguarded steel rebar, falls into uncovered 7-foot-deep holes and injuries from lack of head protection.

OSHA cited Telsi in February 2010, and the company contested its citations and fines to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission the following month. A hearing was held in Boston on Sept. 28, 2010, before Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney. Rooney recently ruled, upholding the four willful and four serious citations, and the monetary penalties issued by OSHA.

“Serious, life-threatening hazards remained uncorrected even after they were brought to this employer's attention,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “In one instance, had the unprotected 14-foot-high excavation wall collapsed, it would have engulfed workers who were pouring concrete formwork and crushed them beneath tons of concrete, soil and debris.”

“Employers must understand that they cannot disregard standards meant to protect the life and safety of their employees without facing consequences,” said Michael Felsen, the Labor Department’s regional solicitor for New England. “This decision not only affirms OSHA’s findings, it also shows that the Department of Labor will not hesitate to pursue appropriate legal action on behalf of America's workers.”

Telsi has 20 days from the date the administrative law judge’s decision is docketed with the review commission to appeal. The safety inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Andover Area Office in Massachusetts. The case was litigated for OSHA by senior trial attorney Paul Katz of the department's Boston Regional Solicitor’s Office.

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