Cave-in at Sewer Installation Leads to $55,000 Fine

OSHA has proposed a total of $55,000 in fines against Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. of Pittsfield, N.H., for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following a cave-in at a sewer installation worksite in Littleton, N.H.

An OSHA inspector opened an inspection upon observing a Northeast Earth employee working in an apparently unprotected 10- to 11-foot-deep excavation. Five minutes after the worker was instructed to exit the excavation, one of its sidewalls collapsed. Had the worker still been in the excavation, he could have been crushed or buried by the cave-in.

"This is a textbook example of how an excavation can become a grave in seconds," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director for New Hampshire. "This worker was fortunate--this time. However, worker safety cannot and must not be a matter of luck. Never permit one of your employees into an excavation until its walls are guarded against collapse."

OSHA issued Northeast Earth one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $49,000, for not guarding the excavation against collapse, and three serious citations with $6,000 in fines for not supporting an undermined section of sidewalk to prevent its collapse into the excavation, no safe means for workers to exit the excavation, and lack of confined space training and equipment.

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. Agency 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.

Download Center

  • EHS Buyer's Guide

    Download this buyer's guide to make more informed decisions as you're looking for an EHS management software system for your organization.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • COVID Return-to-Work Checklist, Fall 2021

    Use this checklist as an aid to help your organization return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and healthy manner.

  • SDS Buyer's Guide

    Learn to make informed decisions while searching for SDS Management Software.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Industry Safe

Featured Whitepapers

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - September 2021

    September 2021

    Featuring:

    • COMBUSTIBLE DUST
      Managing Combustible Dust and Risk Mitigation
    • PPE: CONSTRUCTION
      The Rising Popularity of Safety Helmets on the Jobsite
    • PPE: ELECTRICAL SAFETY
      Five Tips for a Successful Wear Trial
    • SAFETY & HEALTH
      Medical Surveillance Versus Medical Screening
    View This Issue