The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill., for seven safety violations, including three willful for failing to protect workers from cave-ins and moving soil and chunks of asphalt during trenching operations. The inspection was initiated under OSHA's national emphasis program for trenching and excavation after an OSHA inspector witnessed apparent cave-in hazards while traveling past a construction site in Des Plaines on October 3, 2012. Proposed penalties total $110,440.
The three willful violations involve failing to provide cave-in protection to workers installing protective metal sleeves around an existing water main in a trench approximately 7 feet deep, and at a later date during an extension of another trench approximately 6 feet deep. The company failed to ensure that excavated materials that posed a hazard of falling or rolling into the trench were placed at least 2 feet back from the trench edge. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
"Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor has again failed to take adequate safety measures to protect workers from cave-ins at excavation sites despite being previously cited for these industry specific standards," said Diane Turek, OSHA's area director for its Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines. "OSHA implemented a trenching and excavation special emphasis program in the 1980s, so the industry, including Neri, who has been in this business for decades, should be well aware of the safety regulations for trenching operations and the potential hazards to workers."
OSHA cited three repeat violations for failing to establish a safety and health program, provide training to workers on trenching and excavation hazards and ensure that each worker exposed to struck-by hazards was protected by a helmet. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited at a job site in Montgomery in 2009.
Because of the hazards and the violations cited, Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA's SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities or jobsites.
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
One serious violation was cited for failing to protect workers in a trench from water accumulation. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.