OSHA imposes $1.3M in penalties on Massachusetts firm after 2 workers’ deaths
By Riley SimpsonAugust 25, 2021
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have proposed a total of $1,350,884 in penalties for Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. after two workers died onsite earlier this year.
On Feb. 24, 2021, Jordy Alexander Castaneda Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, were killed while working onsite repairing a sewer in downtown Boston when a dump truck struck them and pushed them into a 9-foot-deep trench.
The accident involving Romero and Gutierrez was only the latest incident for their employer, Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc., its predecessor company Shannon Construction Corp., its owner Laurence Moloney and successor company Sterling Excavation LLC.
“Two hardworking people lost their lives because Atlantic Coast Utilities put its own profits over workers’ safety and health,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who is the former Mayor of Boston and union official in the city. “The failure of employers to follow federal safety and health regulations designed to keep workers out of harm’s way is absolutely unacceptable. This is yet another reminder of why the department’s mission to protect workers’ rights and ensure safe working conditions is so important.”
According to the DOL, the company has a “long history of ignoring the safety and health of its employees,” and an OSHA investigation into the firm based in Wayland, Mass., revealed the trenching, excavation and underground construction contractor has committed 28 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious safety and health violations.
OSHA used its egregious citation policy to impose the $1.3 million in penalties, and the employer has 15 business days from the receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
According to the DOL, the company refused to train Romero, Gutierrez and other workers to recognize and avoid work-related hazards.
In its investigation, 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.
“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.”
Before the February incident with Romero and Gutierrez, OSHA had inspected Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and Shannon Construction Corp. six times and cited them for a total of 14 violations, which included willful, repeat and serious violations, with fines of $81,242 (the DOL reported that $73,542 of that total was unpaid and has been referred to debt collection).
OSHA said that Moloney and his companies ignored the citations and repeated demands for abatement of the hazards.
“While two families still mourn the loss of their loved ones, this employer has ignored safety violations, failed to pay fines and shown a total disregard for the safety of its employees,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health James Frederick. “OSHA will use every enforcement and legal tool available to hold scofflaw companies such as this and their owners accountable.”
In addition to the health and safety citations and fines, OSHA said its Wage and Hour Division is currently investigating Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC for possible violations of federal wage law. Workers or anyone else with information that may be pertinent to the division’s investigation may contact its Boston District Office at 617-624-6700.