Mass. Contractor Fined For Trenching Safety Violations

OSHA has cited Handford General Contractor Inc., a Springfield,\r\nMass., contractor for safety violations at an Agawam, Mass.,\r\nexcavation worksite.

OSHA has cited Handford General Contractor Inc., a Springfield, Mass., contractor for safety violations at an Agawam, Mass., excavation worksite and has proposed penalties totaling $60,000.

According to Micheal Goyda, OSHA acting area director for central and western Massachusetts, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated April 12, 2000.

An OSHA inspector who was passing by the worksite observed an employee working in an unprotected trench.

Handford, headquartered in Springfield, was installing sewer lines for the Town of Agawam and had five employees working onsite at the time of the inspection.

"The inspection found an employee working in a trench up to 9 feet in depth which lacked cave-in protection, such as shoring of its sidewalls or the sloping of those walls at a shallow angle or by use of a protective trench box," said Goyda. "This hazard was aggravated by the fact that the water had been allowed to accumulate in the trench, the trench''s walls showed signs of cracking, the trench was subject to vibrations from passing traffic and no ladder was in the trench to provide the worker safe entry and exit. In addition, the contractor failed to conduct daily inspections which would have spotted and corrected these easily recognized hazards."

Goyda emphasized that unprotected trench walls can collapse instantaneously and without warning, crushing or smothering workers beneath tons of debris and earth before they have a chance to react or escape.

"Though no injury occurred here, that was a matter of pure luck," he said. "And excavation safety is not -- and should never be -- a matter of luck. Thirty-six American workers died in construction related trench collapses in 1998. The best way for an employer to keep a trench from becoming a grave is to ensure that all proper safeguards are in place and in use before workers enter an excavation."

Further details and resources on excavation safety are available on OSHA''s Web site at by clicking on the following links: "Outreach," "Construction," "Construction Topics," "Trenching and Excavation."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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