Action by OSHA to Confront Trench Fatalities Is “Vital for Bay State workers,” says Mass. Workers’ Safety Organization

July 15, 2022


Jeff Newton, MassCOSH Communications Director
(857) 301-7730

Action by OSHA to Confront Trench Fatalities Is “Vital for Bay State workers,” says Mass. Workers’ Safety Organization

Boston Yesterday’s announcement by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of its new efforts to protect workers from deadly trench collapses is “vital for Bay State workers,” said the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH).

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said yesterday that OSHA will respond to an alarming increase in fatalities due to trench collapses. Parker has directed OSHA enforcement staff “to consider every available tool at the agency’s disposal – including criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution – to hold employers and other responsible parties accountable when their actions kill workers or put their lives at risk.”

Twenty-two U.S. workers have died due to trench collapses in 2022, compared to 15 during the 12 months of 2021 and 18 during the 12 months of 2020. In 2016, construction workers Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins drowned after a preventable trench collapse at a Boston construction site. Their employer, Atlantic Drain, had a long history of safety violations.

In December of that year, with strong support from MassCOSH, the Boston City Council passed a new ordinance requiring employers to complete the Mattocks-Higgins Affidavit of Workplace Safety, disclosing any past safety violations. The ordinance empowers the city to deny construction permits to unsafe employers. It was proposed by Marty Walsh, who was then mayor of Boston and is now the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Currently, MassCOSH is seeking to pass An Act Relative to Workplace Safety, which would require companies seeking a trenching permit anywhere in Massachusetts to report their record of safety violations. If passed into law the Commonwealth would be able to avoid contracting with companies with a poor record of safety, thereby preventing future injuries and deaths.

“MassCOSH firmly believes responsible contracting laws are good for employers, workers, and Massachusetts taxpayers, and would save the lives of workers in the future,” said MassCOSH Communications Director Jeff Newton. “Too many families in our state know the unhealable pain of losing a loved one on the job to preventable job hazards. We welcome OSHA’s aggressive enforcement of worker protections and demand that our elected officials to their part as well by passing An Act Relative to Workplace Safety.