Dangerous Employer Finally Faces Jail Time

December 18, 2019

December 5, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Mitchell H. Kaplan sentenced Kevin Otto, owner of Atlantic Drain Services to two years in the House of Corrections after being found guilty of two counts of manslaughter for the trench collapse deaths of his employees Robert Higgins and Kelvin “Chuck” Mattocks.  While the punishment does not fit the crime, it is historic to see any employer held criminally responsible.

The court found that Otto forged his employees' signatures on records saying they had completed trench safety courses that were mandated after OSHA levied $55,000 in fines against Atlantic Drain in 2007, and again in 2012, for putting workers in deep trenches without proper safety precautions. In 2017, as a result of the investigation following the tragic deaths, OSHA levied an additional $1.48 million in penalties on the company.

After the disaster, MassCOSH worked with the Boston City Council and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh to pass an ordinance requiring companies to report their own OSHA violations when applying for a city permit. The goal is to prevent contracts and public funds from going to entities with a history of putting workers at risk. City officials can now deny permits if contractors have a record of failing to protect workers and can revoke or suspend necessary permits on the same basis.

MassCOSH is now actively involved in seeking the passage of S2372/H4125: An Act Relative to Workplace Safety (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4125). The legislation will require companies seeking to do business with the Commonwealth, or seeking a trenching permit to report their record of safety violations. If passed, the Commonwealth will be able to avoid contracting with companies that have a poor record of safety, thereby preventing future worker injuries and deaths across the state.