Contractor Fails to Protect Against Cave-ins, Issued $248,000 in Fines

A Franklin, Mass., construction contractor's willful and repeated failure to protect its workers against potentially deadly cave-ins has resulted in $248,020 in proposed fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Zenone Inc. was cited by OSHA for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations at three sewer line excavations located on Dorchester Ave. in Boston. The citations follow OSHA inspections that found the excavations, which ranged from five to 9.5 feet in depth, lacked cave-in protection.

"This contractor knew full well that cave-in protection was required yet elected to not provide it," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston. "Excavation collapses are sudden, swift and often deadly. Thirty-one American workers died in such accidents in 2000. There's no excuse for an employer time and again failing to supply such a vital, common sense - and legally required - safeguard."

Gordon noted that the bulk of the fines, $224,000, stem from the four trenching citations, which were classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation. In three instances, no cave-in protection was provided at all and in the fourth, it was inadequate.

Zenone was also cited for nine alleged serious violations, with $18,300 in proposed fines, for two instances of undermined pavement, which increased cave-in potential; a ladder placed on an unstable surface; a missing grounding pin; cracked windows in an excavator; missing safety latch on hoisting chains; missing rigging tags; fall and tripping hazards from debris, tools and material strewn throughout the work area; and lack of eye protection.

Fines of $4,720 are proposed for two separate alleged repeat violations for employees not wearing warning vests while exposed to heavy vehicular traffic. The company also faces a $1,000 fine for failing to supply its illness and injury log in a timely manner, an alleged other-than-serious violation.

Zenone has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, and/or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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