Hingham, Mass., Cave-In Results in OSHA Fines for Wakefield Contractor

A Wakefield, Mass., contractor faces $27,000 in OSHA fines following a trench cave-in at a Hingham job site that injured a worker.

On Nov. 28, 2005, an employee of Nardone Inc. was installing a drainage pipe in a 13-foot deep trench when its unprotected sidewall collapsed, burying him up to his chest. The accident took place at Ridgewood Crossing, a residential housing development under construction in Hingham.

"While it's fortunate this worker was not killed, this incident illustrates the force and weight with which a trench's unprotected walls can collapse onto workers before they have a chance to react or escape," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "The hazard of working in an unprotected trench was clearly recognizable, yet nothing was done to prevent it. This accident should not have happened."

OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on excavation safety, including a trenching Quick Card, is available for employers and workers on OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.htmlwww.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

OSHA's inspection found that the trench wall was not shored, sloped at a shallow angle or otherwise protected against collapse. Piles of excavated soil were stored near the trench's edge and no ladder was present in the trench to provide safe entry and exit. In addition, employees were not trained to recognize trenching hazards and the trench was not inspected by a competent person, one with the knowledge to spot hazards and the authority to correct them.

As a result, Nardone Inc. was issued one willful citation and fined $21,000, for the lack of cave-in protection. The other conditions resulted in the issuance of four serious citations, with $6,000 in fines.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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