- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited E.T. & L. Corp., a Massachusetts contractor, with one willful and three serious violations and fined the company $119,597 for failing to provide adequate trench protection prior to a June collapse.
- OSHA said its investigation found that E.T. & L. left its employees unprotected from "crushing and struck-by hazards" when it allowed them to work in a 12-foot-deep trench under which a concrete duct was suspended.
- Investigators said E.T. & L. did not give satisfactory support for the duct bank and did not label the supporting chain to indicate whether or not it could handle the load. In addition, OSHA said E.T. & L. did not design or use the trench's protective system according to manufacturer's instructions.
According to Anthony Covello, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties, the cave-in could have been avoided if E.T. & L. had taken proper preventive measures. Even though no one was killed, he said, the lives of workers were still dependent on trench and excavation precautions being carried out properly.
Along with fall protection, OSHA has made excavation and trench safety a priority amid collapse and cave-in incidents, some of them serious enough to cause fatalities. Earlier this month, an Alaska contractor was fined $560,000 after one of its employees died in a 7-foot-deep trench collapse. The company was charged with failing to follow safety standards, and the employee was reportedly killed after a botched rescue attempt during which the owner and other crew members tried to pull the employee from the collapse using two excavators. The contractor is challenging the fine.
One of the most high-profile collapses recently occurred at a New York job site last year, involving an excavation cave-in that killed a Harco Construction employee, 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo. A New York Supreme Court judge found that Harco was guilty of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide when it allowed Moncayo to work in a 13-foot-deep trench despite having been warned that it was not properly secured and posed a danger to workers. The decision was hailed as a victory by safety advocates, but Harco refused to comply with the judge's post-conviction order to pay for televised safety ads and said it would appeal the decision.
However, the incident sparked renewed concern about job site safety and other construction issues, leading the Manhattan District Attorney's office to launch the Construction Fraud Task Force last year, which District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said would focus on fraud, bribery and bid-rigging, as well as safety violations.