Contractor Placed on "Severe Violator" List After Repeated Trench Violations

April 10, 2013

Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill., has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program following a series of repeat trenching violations. The move follows the most recent citation 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. Proposed penalties total $110,440.

“This is not the first time this contractor has exposed vulnerable workers to dangerous excavation hazards,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “

The SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations, OSHA says. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the company’s facilities or job sites.

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.

Prior to this inspection, Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor had been inspected by OSHA three times in the past five years and had been issued serious, repeat and willful citations related to various trenching hazards.

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.

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, Ill., in 2009.