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Drain services company fined $1.5M for deadly trench collapse

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 18 citations, including 10 willful violations, and $1.5 million in proposed fines against a drain services company after two of its employees died in a trench collapse last year.

Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, both employees of Boston-based Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc., died in October when the 12-foot trench they were working in collapsed. An adjacent fire hydrant supply line was damaged, causing the trench to fill with water, drowning the men, according to a statement issued Wednesday by OSHA.

Inspectors determined that Atlantic Drain and the company’s owner, Kevin Otto, who oversaw work on the trench, did not install a support system to protect employees working in the trench from a cave-in or the adjacent fire hydrant from collapsing. In addition, the company did not remove employees from the hazardous conditions or train workers how to identify hazards associated with trenching and excavation work. The company also failed to provide a ladder at all times so employees could exit the trench.

Atlantic Drain had been cited for similar hazards at trenching worksites in 2007 and 2012, OSHA said.

 “The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented,” said Galen Blanton, New England regional administrator for OSHA. “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.”

Atlantic Drain and Mr. Otto were indicted in February by a Suffolk County, Massachusetts, grand jury on two counts of manslaughter and other charges related to the incident. Mr. Otto pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, misleading an investigator and concealing a record at an arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court, according to local news accounts.

Representatives from Atlantic Drain were not immediately available to comment.