Boston Worksite Fatalities Draw $1.35M in OSHA Penalties
On Feb. 24, 2021, at a sewer repair worksite on High Street in downtown Boston, Jordy Alexander Castaneda Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, died after a dump truck struck and pushed them into a nine-foot deep trench.
For their employer, Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc., its predecessor company Shannon Construction Corp., their owner Laurence Moloney and successor company, Sterling Excavation LLC the incident is the latest in a long history of ignoring the safety and health of its employees.
After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency cited the Wayland, Massachusetts, trenching, excavation and underground construction contractor for 28 willful, repeat, serious, and other violations.
Given the severity and nature of the recent hazards, and Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and its predecessor company’s history of violations, OSHA used its egregious citation policy, which allows the agency to propose a separate penalty for each instance of a violation. OSHA has proposed a total of $1,350,884 in penalties.
Chief among the violations was the company’s refusal to train Romero, Gutierrez, and other workers to recognize and avoid work-related hazards.
OSHA also found Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. 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.
“The failure of employers to follow federal safety and health regulations designed to keep workers out of harm’s way is absolutely unacceptable,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
Prior to the February incident, OSHA inspected Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and Shannon Construction Corp. six times and cited 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.
Moloney and his companies ignored the OSHA citations and repeated demands for abatement of the hazards.
“When you fail to train your employees properly, you deny them the most valuable tool they can have, knowledge,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Jeffrey Erskine. “Knowledge to do their work correctly and safely, knowledge to understand the hazards that accompany their job and knowledge of how to identify and eliminate those hazards before they injure, sicken or kill workers.”
In a separate enforcement activity, OSHA opened an inspection of successor company Sterling Excavation LLC on Aug. 13, in response to a complaint of excavation hazards at a worksite at 18 Crestway Road in East Boston. That inspection is ongoing.
In addition to OSHA’s inspections, the department’s Wage and Hour Division is currently investigating Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC for possible violations of federal wage law.
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