A recent OSHA News Release reports that Joseph P. Cardillo & Son Inc., an excavation and utilities contractor out of Wakefield, Massachusetts, has been cited for willful and serious violations of OSHA’s excavation safety standards. The company faces $144,000 in fines for its failure to ensure that its workers, who were installing water mains in a trench six feet, 8 inches deep in Milton, were provided cave-in protection and a ladder to exit the trench, which exposed the workers to falling debris.
As OSHA’s local area director observed, “The proposed fines reflect both the gravity of the hazards and that the employer knowingly refused to comply with using required safeguards… These workers could have been crushed and buried in seconds beneath tons of soil and debris, without any escape options. This risk is unacceptable, and this employer has been cited previously for the same hazards.”
OSHA requires that all trenches and excavations with a depth of five or more feet be protected against the collapse of sidewalls. According to a publication from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), one of the following protective systems may be used to comply with the OSHA standards: sloping the ground; benching the ground; shoring the trench with supports (such as planking or hydraulic jacks); or shielding the trench (with the use of a trench box).
The same publication recounts statistics that illustrate the severity of the risks associated with trench work that does not observe OSHA standards. For example, NIOSH explains that, between 2000 and 2009, 350 workers were killed in trenching or excavation cave-ins, with most incidents involving excavation work or “water, sewer, pipeline, and communications and power-line construction.” The most frequent cause of these fatalities was lack of a protective system.
The OSHA News Release states that Joseph P. Cardillo & Son Inc. was cited for the same violations in 2010, and has been in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program since 2011 – a program that focuses on employers that have a history of endangering workers through safety violations that demonstrate an indifference to the employer’s legal responsibilities. The hefty fine evidences OSHA’s commitment to uncompromising enforcement of safety standards to minimize the significant risks of injury or death at the workplace.