US Department of Labor proposes $1.3M in penalties for contractor with extensive history of violations after two workers die at Boston dig site
BOSTON – On Feb. 24, 2021, at a sewer repair worksite on High Street in downtown Boston, Jordy Alexander Castaneda Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, died after a dump truck struck and pushed them into a nine-foot deep trench. For their employer, Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc., its predecessor company Shannon Construction Corp., their owner Laurence Moloney and successor company, Sterling Excavation LLC the incident is the latest in a long history of ignoring the safety and health of its employees.
After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency cited the Wayland, Massachusetts, trenching, excavation and underground construction contractor for 28 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations. View the safety and health citations.
Given the severity and nature of the recent hazards, and Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and its predecessor company’s history of violations, OSHA used its egregious citation policy, which allows the agency to propose a separate penalty for each instance of a violation. OSHA has proposed a total of $1,350,884 in penalties.
Chief among the violations was the company’s refusal to train Romero, Gutierrez and other workers to recognize and avoid work-related hazards. 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.
“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. “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.”
Prior to the February incident, OSHA inspected Atlantic Coast Utilities LLC/Advanced Utilities Inc. and Shannon Construction Corp. six times and cited them for a total of 14 violations, including willful, repeat and serious violations, with fines of $81,242, of which $73,542 was unpaid and has been referred to debt collection. Moloney and his companies ignored the OSHA 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. OSHA will use every enforcement and legal tool available to hold scofflaw companies such as this and their owners accountable,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health James Frederick.
“When you fail to train your employees properly, you deny them the most valuable tool they can have, knowledge. 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,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Jeffrey Erskine in Boston.
In a separate enforcement activity, OSHA opened an inspection of successor company Sterling Excavation LLC on Aug. 13, in response to a complaint of excavation hazards at a worksite at 18 Crestway Road in East Boston. That inspection is ongoing.
In addition to OSHA’s inspections, the department’s 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.
The employer has 15 business days from 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.