Mourn the Dead, But Fight for the Living

December 21, 2017

On October 23, a crowd organized by MassCOSH gathered in the ornamental center of the Massachusetts State House to hear powerful pleas from the families of the late Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks. Before elected officials, reporters, and TV cameras, the bereaved families demanded advocates do all they can to pass an Act to further workplace safety (H.3633) so that their families would be the last to know the pain of losing a loved one because of dangerous work.
Last year, Robert and Kelvin lost their lives on the job when a water supply line ruptured into the unprotected trench they were working in, drowning the men in a deadly mix of dirt and water. OSHA reports revealed that their employer, Atlantic Drain Services, has a lengthy history of willful violations, leading the state to file manslaughter charges against the company and its owner.
“My brother said work never killed anybody because he worked hard, but work killed my brother that day and it didn’t have to,” said Melinda Mattocks-Ushry. “Oh my god, you don’t know the pain that my mother, his wife, his daughters go through every day.”
Higgins’s mother, overwhelmed with emotion, could only muster a single request. “Please don’t let this happen to any other family.”
The loss of Robert and Kelvin, along with the disturbing safety record of their employer, led Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing to file H.3633, requiring contractors to disclose OSHA violations when bidding for state contracts. It would allow the state to consider a contractor’s safety record when awarding bids, strongly incentivizing businesses to follow all OSHA standards or risk losing huge contracts. The bill’s passage would be a major victory for working families.
H.3633 follows the actions of the City of Boston which took a similar steps shortly after the tragic loss of Robert and Kelvin. With support from MassCOSH, Boston passed an ordinance that allows it to deny construction permits to companies like Atlantic Drain that have a history of serious and willful OSHA violations.
Ending workplace deaths is up to us. Please support families of workers hurt and killed on the job by calling your elected officials and telling them you want to see H.3633 become state law. Find your representatives contact information by visiting