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Region 1 News Release: 09-1191-BOS/BOS 2009-329
Tues., Oct. 6, 2009
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074

Pittsfield, N.H., contractor faces $55,000 in fines from U.S. Labor Department's OSHA following cave-in at Littleton, N.H., jobsite
Collapse occurred minutes after worker exited excavation

CONCORD, N.H. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a total of $55,000 in fines against Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. of Pittsfield, N.H., for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following a cave-in at a Main St. sewer installation worksite in Littleton, N.H.

An OSHA inspector opened an inspection upon observing a Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. employee working in an apparently unprotected 10- to 11-foot deep excavation. Five minutes after the worker was instructed to exit the excavation, one of its sidewalls collapsed. Had the worker still been in the excavation, he could have been crushed or buried by the cave-in.

"This is a textbook example of how an excavation can become a grave in seconds," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director for New Hampshire. "This worker was fortunate - this time. However, worker safety cannot and must not be a matter of luck. Never permit one of your employees into an excavation until its walls are guarded against collapse."

OSHA issued Northeast Earth Mechanics Inc. one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $49,000, for not guarding the excavation against collapse, and three serious citations with $6,000 in fines for not supporting an undermined section of sidewalk to prevent its collapse into the excavation, no safe means for workers to exit the excavation and lack of confined space training and equipment.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. Serious citations are issued when death or serious phys