Two workers from Atlantic Drain Services were killed Friday afternoon in a construction site accident on Dartmouth Street in Boston’s South End. The two men were working in a trench that was 20 feet long and approximately 12 feet deep when a water main cracked, instantly flooding the trench with water and collapsing its sides, preventing the men from escaping.
Boston Police, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) will all investigate the construction accident, which took place around 1PM on October 21.
Atlantic Drain Company, which was conducting private work at the time of the accident, is no stranger to OSHA investigations and fines. The company has been designated a “Severe” violator by OSHA, according to The Boston Globe, and had been placed in an OSHA program for companies that repeatedly endanger worker safety. The company also owed an estimated $140,080 in fines for previous violations stretching back to 2007.
As recently as March, Atlantic Drain Services was cited for not having a five-person rescue team on hand while workers were in a tunnel. Previous OSHA violations also involved a lack of safety equipment and training for people working underground.
There may be a strong wrongful death case here, pending the results of the investigation. In cases such as this, the cause of the water main break is irrelevant. What will matter in a liability case is whether adequate safety measures were followed that would have given the workers a chance to escape.