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I-Team: State Hiring Contractors With Extensive Safety Violations

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent
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BOSTON (CBS) – One of the most dangerous jobs on a construction site is working in a trench. That is why the government has strict safety guidelines requiring crews to use reinforcement materials to prevent the walls of the trench from collapsing. Last fall, a construction worker in Ipswich learned first-hand what can happen when that step is skipped. He was trapped up to his chest when the trench he was working in collapsed on him. It took rescue crews more than two hours to dig him out. He suffered injuries, but they were not life threatening.

The company he was working for was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, for not properly securing the trench.

It is not uncommon for construction companies to be hit with a safety violation or two. But the I-Team has learned that two other Massachusetts contractors have been cited for repeatedly putting trench workers in unsafe situations.

P. Gioioso & Sons of Hyde Park has been cited nine times between 2000 and 2011 for trench safety violations for various road and bridge projects. Their safety record was so checkered, in 2011, they were placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

So who’s hiring this company? The state of Massachusetts, for one. Since earning that dubious and rare title, the I-Team has learned the state has awarded P. Gioioso & Sons more than $20 million in contracts.

While no one from the state highway department would talk to us on camera, a spokesperson told us officials got assurances from Gioioso the company would change its ways.

The company told us they have done so.

“In 2011, the company was cited by OSHA for issues stemming from procedures that have since been completely overhauled. No workers were injured as a result of the issues raised by OSHA. Gioioso cooperated fully with OSHA and the two parties resolved the matter in a settlement,” a statement from the company said.

As a result of these improvements, Gioioso today has a safety rating from the state workers’ compensation system that is 25 percent better than the state average.

The head of the Milton Public Works Department told us that cities and towns are not required to check safety records at all and most don’t. That is why he didn’t know the company he hired to do trench work was also on OSHA’s severe violator list. Nobody was hurt, but Joseph Cardillo of Wakefield was fined for putting workers in an unsafe trench during that Milton job.

Dave Knops of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health said more needs to be done to protect trench workers.

“A cubic yard of soil weighs over 2 tons, so when that collapses down on these workers, it could crush them,” he said.

P. Gioioso says they have worked for cities and towns across Massachusetts and all of those communities have been satisfied with their work. Joseph Cardillo never returned our phone calls.

MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON

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