OSHA has cited Wakefield, Mass.-based excavation and utilities contractor Joseph P. Cardillo & Son Inc. for excavation safety violations. The willful and serious violations at the Milton, Mas., site carry penalties totaling $144,400.
"The proposed fines reflect both the gravity of the hazards and that the employer knowingly refused to comply with using required safeguards," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "These workers could have been crushed and buried in seconds beneath tons of soil and debris, without any escape options. This risk is unacceptable, and this employer has been cited previously for the same hazards."
An OSHA inspection began Aug. 6, 2013 following an anonymous complaint.
Workers were installing water mains in a trench 6 feet, 8 inches deep at Rustlewood and Central Avenues, with no cave-in protection and a ladder to exit. They were exposed to falling debris that accumulated above the trench. As a result, OSHA issued two willful citations, with $140,000 in fines, for the cave-in and exit hazards. OSHA issued one serious citation, with a $4,400 fine, for the debris hazard. The same willful violations were cited in Dec. 2010 at a Salem, N.H., work site.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA standards require that all trenches and excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against sidewalls collapsing. Protection may be provided through shoring of the trench walls, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by using a protective trench box.
Cardillo has been in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program since 2011. The program focuses on employers with a history of safety violations that endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.