Electrical Contractor Cited for Risky Trench Work, Fined $35K

OSHA has proposed a $35,000 fine against Annese Electric of Weymouth, Mass., for an alleged willful violation of excavation safety standards at a worksite in Ayer, Mass. The agency’s inspection found Annese employees installing electrical conduits for telecommunications lines in a 7-foot deep trench that lacked protection against a collapse of its sidewalls into the trench. The workers in the trench faced the imminent dangers of crushing injuries or death if a collapse occurred, inspectors said.

"An unprotected trench is a potential grave," said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "Its walls can collapse suddenly and with great force, burying workers beneath tons of soil and debris before they can react or escape. The fact that no collapse had yet occurred in no way relieves the employer of the responsibility to provide and ensure this basic and legally required safeguard."

As a result of its inspection, OSHA issued the company one willful citation for the unprotected trench. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

OSHA 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.

Annese 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.

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