The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Monday cited National Grid, a major supplier of natural gas and electricity to the U.S. Northeast, for alleged serious violations of trenching safety standards that led to an employee being injured following the June collapse of a natural gas line trench in Boston. National Grid faces a total of $36,500 in proposed fines.

OSHA said it found that the trench, in which employees were performing welding work, lacked protection against a collapse of its walls, exposing workers to being struck by falling rocks and soil. The workers in the trench also were exposed to being struck by undermined and unsupported sections of concrete curbing located above the trench.

In addition, the workers had not been trained to recognize and avoid trenching hazards, and the trench had not been inspected by someone with the knowledge to identify such hazards, according to OSHA.

"This is precisely the type of incident OSHA's excavation standards are designed to prevent," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "A competent inspection would have identified and allowed these hazardous conditions to be fixed before workers ever entered the trench," she said.

OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

National Grid has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Independent OSHA Commission.

National Grid is the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast, serving 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. It also delivers electricity to about 3.3 million customers in the same states.

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