Cave-in at Construction Site Leads to Nearly $70,000 Fine for Contractor

OSHA has cited Lawrence-Lynch Corp. of Falmouth, Mass., for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following an excavation collapse at a worksite in Kingston, Mass. The construction contractor faces a total of $69,300 in proposed fines.

Lawrence-Lynch employees were working in a 5.5-foot-deep excavation, connecting a water line to a fire hydrant, when one of the excavation's sidewalls collapsed. One employee was struck by large pieces of unsupported asphalt from atop the sidewall and partially buried. OSHA's inspection found that the excavation lacked any sort of protection to prevent a collapse and that the asphalt had not been removed or supported to prevent it from falling on workers in the excavation.

"This case clearly shows that an unprotected excavation can turn deadly in seconds, trapping and burying workers before they can react or escape," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "While it is fortunate that no deaths occurred this time, worker safety cannot and must never be a matter of chance. Never place an employee in an excavation without collapse protection."

As a result of its inspection, OSHA issued the company one willful citation with a $63,000 proposed fine for the unprotected excavation, and one serious citation with a $6,300 fine, for not supporting or removing the asphalt atop the excavation.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. Serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. The agency's standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapses before workers enter them. Detailed information on excavation hazards and safeguards is available online at www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA, or contest the finding before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Boston South Area Office in Braintree, Mass.

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