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OSHA sets fines at $1.3M for contractor in workers’ deaths

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Dive Brief

  • Following the deaths of two workers on a Boston worksite on Feb. 24, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $1,350,884 in fines for Wayland, Massachusetts-based contractor Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc., predecessor company Shannon Construction Corp., successor company Sterling Excavation LLC and company owner Laurence Moloney.
  • The two employees, 27-year-old Jordy Alexander Castaneda Romera and 33-year-old Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez were struck by a dump truck that pushed them into a 9-foot-deep trench, resulting in their deaths. Following the incident, OSHA cited the contractor for 28 willful, repeat, serious, and other-than-serious violations, according to a Department of Labor press release.
  • OSHA has investigated Moloney, who has operated several companies, six times and issued 14 citations since 2001. Prior to this incident, there were no fatalities on record at any of Moloney’s previous companies, according to Jeffrey Erskine, the OSHA acting regional director in Boston.

Dive Insight

Construction Dive reached out to Atlantic Coast Utilities and Moloney for comment through publicly available contact information for the company, but the individual who answered the phone claimed it was the wrong number. 

In a statement obtained by the Associated Press, Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC said it is assessing OSHA’s findings.

“The company will assess the actions taken by OSHA today and will determine its next steps, including contesting any assertion of company error or negligence,” the statement to the AP said. “It is clear that this was a tragic accident and any attempt to portray it otherwise is both inaccurate and imprudent.”

Foremost among the citations were the companies’ refusal to train Romero, Gutierrez and other workers to recognize and avoid work-related hazards, along with Atlantic Coast Utilties LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc.’s failure to conduct inspections to either find or correct the hazards, such as the risk of being struck by vehicles or being crushed or engulfed in an unguarded trench, according to OSHA’s press release.

The severity of the violations and the repeat nature of the citations are what caused the proposed penalties to be so high, according to OSHA. The agency also used its “egregious citation policy” during enforcement, which allows a separate penalty for each citation.

The fines are not final at this point. The cited companies have 15 days to comply with the fines, get an informal conference with the area’s OSHA director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“Two hardworking people lost their lives because Atlantic Coast Utilities put its own profits over workers’ safety and health,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh in the press release. “The failure of employers to follow federal safety and health regulations designed to keep workers out of harm’s way is absolutely unacceptable.”

Prior fines owed by Moloney total $81,242, of which $73,542 is unpaid and has been referred to debt collection, according to the release. Further penalties for Moloney’s companies could be forthcoming as well, as OSHA is also investigating Sterling Excavation LLC for hazards on a worksite in East Boston. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is also investigating Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC for a potential violation of federal wage law.

“When I say this is a terrible situation we came upon here, I can speak on that with authority,” said Erskine during the press conference.

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