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Medford Contractor Cited for Endangering Excavation Workers

A work site in Chelsea was recently slapped with close to $35,000 in fines for what Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials called potential cave-in hazards.
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The Medford contractor, Tufts Inc., was cited and fined following a complaint filed back in July. Upon receiving this complaint, officials from the Andover Area office claimed that they witnessed employees putting in a sewer pipe along 30 High Street in an unprotected 7-foot-deep excavation.

Our Medford workers’ compensation lawyers understand that excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. What OSHA found on this work site is that workers did not have the proper protection against a wall collapse, and they were also working without a ladder or any other safe ingress or egress. Water had also accumulated at the bottom of the project, while the asphalt at the top of the project was not supported to keep it from falling.

“These workers could have been crushed and buried in seconds without a chance to react or escape,” said Jeffrey Erskine, with the local OSHA office.

Because of the observed and dangerous work site, the company was handed a willful citation with a $28,000 fine because the excavation wasn’t protected and another three serious citations totaling more than $6,000 for the rest of the observed dangers.

Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities. Other potential hazards include falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving mobile equipment. Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.

The primary hazard of trenching and excavation is employee injury from collapse. Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching, and shoring. Additional hazards include working with heavy machinery; manual handling of materials; working in proximity to traffic; electrical hazards from overhead and underground power-lines; and underground utilities, such as natural gas. The following references aid in recognizing and controlling some of the hazards associated with trenching and excavation.

-Protect yourself and others by only entering protected trenches. If a trench is 5 feet deep or more are required by OSHA to have a protective system in place. IF it is 20 feet deep or greater, a registered engineer must design the protective system.

-Make sure heavy equipment is kept away from the edge of any trench. This weight on lose soil can cause a severe cave-in.

-Keep an eye out for low oxygen or any kind of dangerous fumes or gasses.

-Keep an eye out for rain, and inspect the location after receiving rain.

-Make sure everyone has a safe area and a safe way to get out of the trench. This should include ramps, steps, ladders and other common forms.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.

More Blog Entries:

OSHA Fines Massachusetts Contractor Over $350,000, Massachusetts Compensation Lawyers Blog, October 6, 2013

Government Shut-Down: OSHA and Worker Safety, Massachusetts Compensation Lawyers Blog, October 2, 2013