Tragic history repeats itself

October 24, 2016


Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, MassCOSH Executive Director, cell (617)-642-1878
Jeff Newton, Communications Coordinator, (617) 825-7233 x14
10/22/2016   BOSTON – The deaths of two construction workers who drowned in a flooded trench last night is made even more devastating knowing that their employer, Atlantic Drain Services, Inc. had a long history of OSHA violations, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health said in a statement. 
“Two families and numerous coworkers and neighbors are mourning today.  Emergency responders put their lives at risk. In our 2008 Dying for Work in Massachusetts report, we reported that Atlantic Drain Services had been issued a willful citation because employees were working in a 12 foot trench with no cave-in protection. Since that time Atlantic Drain Services hasn’t just been warned about hazardous working conditions – but were cited numerous times and received repeat and willful citations over the past 9 years,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the organization’s executive director. "What is it going to take to ensure that all employers who put workers in life-threatening roles ensure that all adequate safety measures and protections are in place?"
Trenching is among the most hazardous construction operation.  OSHA defines a trench as a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and is no wider than 15 feet. According to OSHA, the fatality rate for excavation work is 112% higher than the rate for other general construction work. Trench injuries and deaths are too common in Massachusetts: 

Last March, Paul Brown and his brother suffered injuries when the trench they were inspecting collapsed in Halifax, MA. 

Last July,  Davide S. Nascimento of Ludlow was killed in an excavation.  According to OSHA, his employer failed to protect the water line against damage and failure to properly inspect the excavation for cave-in risk.

In September 2015, a worker in Dedham was knocked unconscious when he fell 15 feet into a deep trench.

In June 2014, a worker at the Southfield Development project was seriously injured in a partial trench collapse that buried him in dirt.Trench-related deaths are completely preventable if measures are instituted such as:

  • Requiring protective systems for trenches 5 feet and deeper (shoring, sloping, or trench box);
  • Providing a safe means of access/egress every 25 feet when trench is 4 feet or greater; and
  • Ensuring employers identify the location of utilities by calling DigSafe 1-888-344-7233 DPS

While the two workers killed yesterday were private sector employees, municipal workers, particularly public works employees, often work in hazardous roles, including working in trenches and confined spaces. Yet in Massachusetts, only the executive branch is specifically required to follow OSHA standards. Legislators are now considering a bill titled "An Act to Further Define Standards of Employee Safety" to clarify that municipal and public authority employers must adhere to those same measures. 

"The proposed fines in 2007 were a total of $27,000. Once again this tragedy just reinforces that these fines are too low and do not deter employers sufficiently enough to stop them from putting their workers and families livelihoods at risk," said MassCOSH Deputy Director Al Vega.  “We will keep these workers and their families in our hearts and prayers but more must be done in order to ensure that these types of incidents are prevented and that all workers, private and public, can do this type of dangerous work and return home at the end of their workday."'

Click here for media coverage speading the news that unsafe jobs are still taking lives in the Bay State