According to K. Frank Gravitt, OSHA area director for Middlesex and Essex counties, the violations were discovered during two safety inspections in August and October 1999, at pipeline installation sites in Methuen, Mass.
The violations chiefly concern employees exposed to cave-in, crushing and electrocution hazards.
The first inspection intitated in August was in response to an employee complaint about excavation safety hazards and found employees exposed to cave-in hazards from working in an inadequately protected trench box in unprotected areas of 8.5-foot deep excavation.
The workers were also exposed to crushing injuries from the unexpected movement of a side boom tractor or its load.
The second inspection in October resulted from a report that a Caterpillar excavator made contact with an energized overhead power line.
"While all these citations address hazards that can cause death or serious injury, the excavation safety citations are the most disturbing since Delta Gulf was cited last year for seven similar violations following OSHA inspections of installation sites in New Hampshire," said Gravitt, who added that the company had also been previously cited for violations involving overhead power lines and riding of unauthorized vehicles.
Noting that Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that 36 workers died in construction-related cave-ins in 1998, Gravitt explained that OSHA standards require that any excavation 5 feet or more in depth must be protected against cave-ins since its walls can collapse without warning.
He also reminded employers that a trench box is an accepted means of protections, but only if it is properly designed, constructed and used, and employees do not work in unprotected sections of the excavation.
"There's no excuse for these hazards existing in the first place and even less for their reoccurrence," Gravitt said. "The fact no fatalities or serious injuries occurred here in no way absolves this employer of the responsibility of supplying and maintaining these baseline, commonsense -- and mandated -- safeguards for workers."
As a result, Delta Gulf faces a proposed fine totaling $290,000.
Gravitt urged eastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Methuen or Braintree. OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline -- (800) 321-OSHA -- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
Detailed information on excavation safety can be accessed through OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov.