A Fatal Mistake: Boston Company Fails to Provide Safety Training, Two Workers Die in Trench Collapse

In October 2016, two employees of Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc. died when the trench they were working in collapsed. The trench was adjacent to a fire hydrant supply line, which broke in the collapse, filling the trench with water and killing Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation into the incident, and found that Atlantic Drain had failed in its duty to provide safety training and safeguards against collapse. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been injured in a work-related accident.

“The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented. Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility,” said OSHA’s New England regional administrator, Galen Blanton.

OSHA Violations

OSHA determined that Atlantic Drain failed to meet multiple safety requirements, including:

  • The installation of a support system to prevent trench collapses.
  • The removal of employees from hazardous conditions.
  • Training workers to identify hazards and address them appropriately.
  • Providing a ladder so that employees could quickly exit the trench.
  • The removal of overhead hazards adjacent to the trench.
  • The provision of eye protection and hardhats.

Due to Atlantic Drain’s failure to provide basic safety training, and the additional violations above, OSHA has cited the company for 18 violations. What does that mean for Atlantic Drain? OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $1,475,813. Further, Atlantic Drain’s owner, Kevin Otto, was indicted in February on two counts of manslaughter. The company has 15 working days from receipt of OSHA’s citations to contest them with the agency’s area director, if it wishes to do so. If you believe that an employer’s negligence or misconduct caused you harm, a Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages.

How to Prevent Trench Collapses

“We want to emphasize to all employers that trenching hazards can have catastrophic consequences if they are not addressed effectively before employees enter a trench,” Blanton said. Unprotected trench walls can collapse with great force. Collapses often result in serious injuries and death. However, there are ways to dramatically reduce the incidence of trench collapses.

  • A trench box or shield should be used during all excavations.
  • Each job should be overseen by an assigned supervisor who is familiar with safety protocol.
  • The sides of trenches should be shored with material to prevent the earth from collapsing around workers.
  • Trench sides should be sloped to reduce soil weight and pressure.
  • Engineer-designed sheeting and bracing should be used to secure excavations.
  • Water accumulation should be protected against.
  • Workers should have safe, easy access to exits.
  • Workers should wear appropriate safety equipment, including hard hats.
  • Workers should be trained in potential hazards, and how to avoid or manage them.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Work Injury Law Firm

If you have been injured in a work-related accident, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. Employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment for employees at all times. When they fail to do so, they can be liable for injuries and fatalities that occur as a result. In the case above, simple precautions may have saved two workers’ lives. If another’s negligence has caused you harm, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses. Our experienced lawyers have an impressive track record of obtaining compensation for clients, and we want to help you. Don’t go through this difficult time alone. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.



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