Construction, Enforcement and Inspection

Fatality Leads to Citations, Fines for Foundation Builder

OSHA has cited and fined a Massachusetts foundation company for failing to protect employees against crushing hazards installing permanent foundation supports beneath a public library. The company faces more than $212,000 in proposed penalties.

vm / E+ / Getty Images

The safety agency opened an inspection into the case last July after learning that a 2,600-pound rock dislodged from the building’s foundation fatally struck an employee of the contractor. The company was also cited for not instructing employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions while working under a foundation. The contractor had been cited by OSHA for similar hazards in 2015 when an employee was pinned by a granite block that came loose.

Noted OSHA area director Anthony Covello, “Failure to supply proper safeguards and training has led to a needless and avoidable death. It is imperative that employers train their employees, and equip them with the necessary tools to prevent crushing and other hazards.”

OSHA says one of the most important strategies to prevent such tragedies is to preplan excavation work. Waiting until after the work starts to correct mistakes in shoring or sloping slows down the operation, adds to the cost of the project, and makes a cave-in or other excavation failure more likely.

OSHA standards require employers to provide support systems (shoring, bracing, or underpinning) when necessary to ensure that adjacent structures remain stable for the protection of workers. The standards also prohibit excavation below the base or footing of any foundation or retaining wall that could pose a hazard. Exceptions are if the employer provides a support system or the exaction is in stable rock.