State, Federal Investigators Probe Company Involved in Deadly Trench Accident

OSHA has fined the company involved nearly $100,000 in the past

State and federal investigators are working to find out why two men were killed in a trench collapse in Boston's South End.

"I can't really comment on that right now," said Mayor Marty Walsh. "It's under investigation."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh would not answer specific questions about the fatal trench collapse in Boston's South End. Friday, a water main broke, flooding the trench and killing two employees of Atlantic Drain Services, a local company that clears blocked drains and replaces sewer lines.

The company has a disturbing safety record of what OSHA calls serious, willful and repeat violations. OSHA has fined them nearly $100,000 for, among other things: daily inspections of excavations not being done by a competent person, not having a rescue team in place for underground work they did in 2015, not properly training employees to recognize hazards, not providing a support system to protect employees in a possible collapse, and not protecticting employees from cave-ins with an adequate protection system. A cave in just like this happened Friday.

"No cut walls, no cave protection, no cut protection," said State Representative Tackey Chan. "Oh my God."

According to Boston Fire, there was not a trench box in the South End trench that could have held back the dirt walls and help protect the employees. OSHA regulations require that on a job like this, a protective system is in place.

Chan sponsored a bill last year that would have made required Drain Cleaning Services to be licensed and regulated under the board of State Examiner's of Plumbers and Gas Fitters. Right now there is no state oversight of any kind to monitor safety violations and hold companies accountable.

"They could suspend, revoke, civil penalties and potential criminal actions depending on the circumstances," said Chan.

Harry Brett with the Plumber's and Gasfitter's Union says oversight not only requires companies to properly train their employees in what to do in dangerous situations. It empowers them if there is a hazard.

"They may have said, I'm not going in there, or I can't go in there," said Brett.

The bill died in committee as it has multiple times in the last decade. Chan plans to introduce it again in January.

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