“An unprotected trench is a potential grave, since its sidewalls can collapse in an instant, crushing and burying workers before they have a chance to react or escape,” said Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. “Workers should never enter a trench until it is protected against cave-ins.”
The OSHA inspector found that the nearly 6-foot deep trench was not sloped at a shallow angle or otherwise protected against a potential collapse of its sidewalls onto the employees working within. OSHA previously had cited this employer in December 2006 for an unprotected excavation at a Worcester, Mass., jobsite.
Due to the previous violation, OSHA has now issued P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. one repeat citation, with a $28,000 fine, for this latest hazard. OSHA issues repeat citations when an employer has been previously cited for a substantially similar hazard and that citation has become final.
The contractor also has been issued two serious citations, with $5,700 in fines, for the absence of a ladder or other safe means to exit the trench and for not having the trench inspected by a competent person, one with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct hazards such as these. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavations 5 feet or deeper must be protected against collapse. Detailed information about excavation hazards and safeguards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with Gordon or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.