News | June 15, 1999

Collapsing Wall Prompts OSHA Fine

The collapse of a wall at a South Boston, MA, work site injured two workers and has resulted in citations for Chapel Hill Development Corp., of Hull, MA. The company was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and issued $21,550 in penalties.

Chapel Hill Development Corp. was renovating a brick tenement building at 53 Thomas Park into condominiums and had six employees working on the job. On that day of the accident, Chapel Hill employees were pumping concrete into the space between a concrete block wall and the building's original foundation when the wall collapsed, trapping two workers beneath its debris. According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, the alleged violations concern inadequate bracing for the collapsed wall as well as other deficiencies involving scaffolds, excavation safety, employee training, and site safety inspections.

"The inspection found that the wall had not been adequately designed, erected, supported, or braced against collapse," said Gordon. "In addition, the scaffold on which employees worked was supported by the same bracing used on the wall. A second scaffold had not been set on a firm foundation. Excavated areas below the building's original foundation had not been shored against possible collapse. Employees had not worn required head protection and had not been trained to recognize and address excavation, scaffolding, and other hazards. Safety inspections that could have identified and corrected these hazards had not been conducted."

The company received one alleged willful violation ($7,000) because the concrete block walls used as form work were not designed, fabricated, erected, supported, braced, and maintained so they were capable of supporting all vertical and lateral loads. Eleven alleged serious violations ($14,550) were issued for:

  • Failure to provide a competent person to conduct site safety inspections;
  • Failure to instruct employees in the recognition, avoidance, control, and elimination of hazards associated with, and applicable regulations for, scaffolding, excavations, and concrete form work;
  • Exposing employees to the hazard of being struck by falling concrete block, debris, and tools while working in close proximity to scaffolding which lacked toeboards or equivalent protection; exposing employees to head injuries from not wearing helmets while working beneath overhead hazards;
  • Failure to equip a tubular welded frame scaffold on which employees worked with base plates, mud sills, or other firm foundation; allowing employees to work on scaffold plank platforms which were inadequately supported by the form work bracing system; failure to provide a competent person to inspect the scaffolds;
  • Making unshored or unsupported excavations below the building's foundation and retaining walls; allowing employees to work within two feet of an unprotected straight-cut excavation face; failure to inspect excavations, adjacent areas, and protective systems by a competent person for evidence of possible cave-in situations;
  • Failure to develop and maintain drawings and plans for the concrete formwork.