On October 21, 2016, two employees of Atlantic Drain Services were tragically killed during a trench collapse in South End. 47-year-old Robert Higgins and 53-year-old Kelvin Mattocks were excavating the trench when a fire hydrant collapsed into the tunnel, quickly flooding it with water. The flood quickly mixed with dirt and clay and trapped the men below the raising water line, according to a press release by the district attorney’s office.
The trench did not have a trench box, which according to federal regulations is required for any trench deeper than 5 feet; the trench Mr. Higgins and Mattocks were working on was about 14 feet underground. The company received two separate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations in the past ten years for failing to follow this shoring requirement, and had been ordered twice to attend training sessions relating to this issue.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has brought two counts of manslaughter charges against the company and its owner, Kevin Otto, for recklessly failing “to take the standard safety precautions that could have averted that tragedy.” Both parties also face one charge of misleading investigators and six for tampering with evidence. They believe that the company forged dates and signatures on paperwork meant to show that employees attended the required training sessions in 2007 and 2012, and concealed these documents from the Suffolk Grand Jury. Massachusetts has not raised the maximum penalty a corporate entity can be given if convicted of manslaughter in 200 years, so Atlantic Drain Services may only be held liable for $1,000 if convicted. The district attorney’s office is asking legislatures in Massachusetts to raise this penalty in order to hold corporate entities more accountable to the safety of their employees.
Safety rules and regulations relating to construction sites are in place to protect workers from catastrophic injury and death, however time and again, some contractors recklessly failed to adhere to requirements, putting the lives of their employees, and employees of subcontractors, at risk. Many construction injuries are the result of management’s failure to maintain a safe jobsite, but others may be the result of defective equipment. Other issues may involve failing to properly inspect the jobsite, failing to provide safe machinery or tools, or failing to provide workers with adequate fall protection equipment.
Swartz & Swartz, P.C. has a thorough understanding of such rules and regulations, and can advise individuals and families concerned about violations that have caused harm. Call us at (617) 742-1900, or toll-free at 1-800-545-3732 if you have questions about your or a family member’s legal rights.