A Massachusetts wastewater and bridge contractor with a long history of federal safety violations is now facing its eighth series of citations and $354,000 in new proposed fines, for exposing employees to cave-in hazards at two work sites.
Since 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited P. Gioioso & Sons Inc. seven times for repeat violations of OSHA’s trenching and excavation safety. The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, is primarily engaged in the construction of underground water and sewer mains.
The new violations place P. Gioioso & Sons in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, initiated in 2010, which focuses on what OSHA calls “recalcitrant employers.”
P. Gioioso & Sons
|P. Gioioso & Sons, founded in 1962, provides construction for the water, bridges, marine and rail industries.|
“Time and again, this employer has chosen to ignore the law and, by doing so, placed its workers’ lives at risk,” said Dr. David Michaels, the OSHA administrator. “Employers who ignore basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards will face substantial fines and consequences.”
2 Inspections, 4 Willful Violations
The first inspection, in Cambridge, MA, was opened when an OSHA inspector observed a Gioioso employee working in an unprotected trench on a street. During the inspection, a section of the trench wall collapsed while the employee was still in the trench. The employee was uninjured.
The second inspection, in Framingham, MA, began after a concerned passer-by informed OSHA of workers in an unguarded trench. In both cases, OSHA found that the trenches lacked cave-in protection and a ladder or other safe means for workers to exit the trenches.
The inspections led OSHA to issue citations for four willful violations, each carrying the maximum allowable penalty of $70,000. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
From Excavation to Grave
“An unguarded excavation is only seconds away from becoming a grave,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator.
“While the worker in the Cambridge trench was fortunate not to have been injured when the trench’s sidewall collapsed, worker safety must not and can never be left to fortune. Responsible employers ensure that effective safety measures are in place and in use before their workers enter a trench.”
The contractor was also cited for five serious violations, with a total of $32,000 in fines, for allowing employees to be exposed to being struck by the counterweight of an excavator at the Cambridge work site and a variety of other hazards at the Framingham work site. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious injury could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Finally, the company was issued three repeat citations with $42,000 in fines for trenching and electrical hazards at the Framingham work site, including allegedly failing to maintain the minimum clearance between an energized power line and excavating equipment. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years. In this case, OSHA had cited the employer in 2009 for similar hazards at work sites in Somerville, Tewksbury and Boston.
OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected against collapse through shoring, sloping the soil at a shallow angle, or by use of a protective trench box.