OSHA Fines Contractor nearly $1.5 Million over Trench Collapse that Killed Two

Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks died on Oct. 21, 2016 when the approximately 12-foot deep trench in which they were working collapsed, breaking an adjacent fire hydrant supply line and filling the trench with water in a matter of seconds.

Owner faces manslaughter and other charges in connection with the deaths.​

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Atlantic Drain Service Co., Roslindale, Mass. with 18 safety violations and fined the company $1,475,813 over a Boston trench accident that killed two workers in October 2016.

The agency’s determined that Atlantic Drain failed to provide basic safeguards against collapse and did not train its employees to recognize and avoid cave-in and other hazards.

Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks died on Oct. 21, 2016 when the approximately 12-foot deep trench in which they were working collapsed, breaking an adjacent fire hydrant supply line and filling the trench with water in a matter of seconds.

"The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA's New England regional administrator. “Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility,"

OSHA's inspection determined that Atlantic Drain and owner Kevin Otto, who oversaw the work on the day of the fatalities, did not:

  • Install a support system to protect employees in an approximately 12-foot deep trench from a cave-in and prevent the adjacent fire hydrant from collapsing.
  • Remove employees from the hazardous conditions in the trench.
  • Train the workers in how to identify and address hazards associated with trenching and excavation work.
  • Provide a ladder at all times so employees could exit the trench.
  • Support structures next to the trench that posed overhead hazards.
  • Provide employees with hardhats and eye protection.

As a result, OSHA cited Atlantic Drain for a total of 18 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards and is proposing the financial penalties for those violations. OSHA cited Atlantic Drain trenching worksites for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012. The full citations can be viewed here.

In February, a Suffolk County grand jury indicted Atlantic Drain and Otto, on two counts each of manslaughter and other charges in connection with the deaths. OSHA and the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor worked with the department's Office of the Inspector General, the Boston Police Department's Homicide Unit and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office during the course of this investigation.

Atlantic Drain has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to meet with OSHA's area director, and to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, if it chooses to do so.