Tragic Workplace Deaths Highlight the Need for Massachusetts Employers to Comply With Established Health and Safety Regulations

Employers in Massachusetts and throughout the United States are required to protect excavation workers who dig five feet or more from sidewall collapses. Safety measures may include sloping soil at a shallow angle, shoring trench walls, or using a trench box designed to protect excavation workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), an East Coast business willfully failed to follow mandatory trenching and excavation safety guidelines with tragic results. Sadly, two men were killed when a trench collapsed.

Following an investigation into the trench cave-in death of two employees, OSHA issued one willful and nine serious violations to the landscape, excavation, and snow removal business that employed them. In general, a willful violation occurs when an employer voluntarily or knowingly disregards federal health and safety laws designed to protect workers. A serious violation results when an employer knew or should have known about a hazard that is substantially likely to cause an employee to suffer serious physical harm or death.

OSHA investigators found that the workers were installing a French drain in a trench that was between nine and 13 feet deep without adequate cave-in protections. Other health and safety violations at the job site included failing to properly inspect the trench or provide the deceased workers with a sufficient number of safety ladders in order to escape in an emergency. In addition, the company is accused of failing to provide workers with adequate training or head protection. The business also allegedly did not sufficiently mark where dangerous utility lines were located. As a result, OSHA issued about $77,000 in proposed fines to the employer. After receiving an OSHA citation, a company typically has 15 business days to contest the findings.

OSHA was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 in order to reduce preventable worker injuries and fatalities. When a severe on-the-job accident occurs, OSHA will normally investigate whether an employer complied with recognized safety standards at the job site. In 2013, 4,405 workplace fatalities were reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sadly, 55 of those deaths occurred in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If you lost someone you love as a result of an accident at work, you should discuss your rights with a hardworking attorney.

If you were hurt or a family member was killed in a Boston workplace accident, the dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you recover the benefits you may be entitled to. To discuss your rights under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law in greater detail, do not hesitate to contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

Lack of cave-in protections led to trench collapse, Bednar Landscape workers’ deaths in BoontonOSHA Regional News Release dated April 1, 2015

Workers’ Compensation