OSHA: Workers in MA trench could have been crushed (1/11/11)
"Employers know the unprotected walls of a trench can collapse suddenly and without warning, stunning and crushing workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "Even though no collapse occurred this time, allowing employees to enter and work in an unprotected trench is both dangerous and unacceptable."
OSHA's inspection found Amorello employees working in a trench deeper than 8 feet that lacked proper shoring or sloping of its sidewalls to prevent them from collapsing onto the workers. As a result of this condition, OSHA has issued the company one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $15,400. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
The inspection also found that the trench did not have a ladder so workers could swiftly exit the trench, and that bricks and excavated material were stored at the edge of the trench wall. These conditions resulted in two serious citations with $4,620 in fines. OSHA issues a serious citation 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 collapse.