After two deaths, repeat offender faces $1.3M penalty for trenching, other hazards

Filed under: News |

By WK Editorial Staff Putting its egregious citation policy to use, which allows a separate penalty for each instance of a violation, OSHA has proposed a total of $1,350,884 in penalties against “serial violator” Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc., a Wayland, Massachusetts, trenching, excavation and underground construction contractor.

The unusually large penalty follows the death of two workers on February 24, 2021, at a sewer repair worksite on High Street in downtown Boston.

Two men died at repeat offender’s worksite. Twenty-seven and 33-year-old men died in the incident after a dump truck struck and pushed them into a nine-foot-deep trench, OSHA said. For their employer, Atlantic Coast Utilities/Advanced Utilities, its predecessor company Shannon Construction Corp., their owner, and successor company Sterling Excavation LLC, the incident is the latest in a long history of ignoring the safety and health of its employees, according to OSHA.

OSHA: Top 10 Most Violated Health and Safety Standards

Violations. Following an investigation, the federal health and safety agency cited the company for 28 willful, repeat, serious, and other-than-serious violations. Given the severity and nature of the recent hazards, and Atlantic Coast Utilities/Advanced Utilities and its predecessor company’s history of violations, OSHA applied its egregious citation policy.

Chief among the violations was the company’s refusal to train one of the deceased workers and others to recognize and avoid work-related hazards. OSHA also found that Atlantic Coast Utilities/Advanced Utilities failed to conduct worksite inspections to identify and correct hazards, including the risks of being struck by construction vehicles and other traffic, crushed or engulfed in an unguarded trench, and being overcome by oxygen-deficient or toxic atmospheres in the trench and an adjacent manhole.

Earlier inspections. Prior to the February incident, OSHA inspected Atlantic Coast Utilities /Atlantic Coast Utilities and Shannon Construction six times, citing them for a total of 14 violations, including willful, repeat, and serious violations, with fines of $81,242, of which $73,542 was unpaid and has been referred to debt collection. The owner and his companies have ignored the OSHA citations and repeated demands for abatement of the hazards, according to the agency.

Prior investigations. In a separate enforcement activity, OSHA opened an inspection of successor company Sterling Excavation on August 13, in response to a complaint of excavation hazards at a worksite at 18 Crestway Road in East Boston. That inspection is ongoing.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is also investigating Atlantic Coast Utilities for possible federal wage violations.

Comply or contest. Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. has 15 business days from the receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“While two families still mourn the loss of their loved ones, this employer has ignored safety violations, failed to pay fines and shown a total disregard for the safety of its employees,’ said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health James Frederick. “OSHA will use every enforcement and legal tool available to hold scofflaw companies such as this and their owners accountable.”

List your business in the premium web directory for free This website is listed under Human Resources Directory