Contractor Repeatedly Cited for Trenching Hazards

January 24, 2014

For a second time, OSHA cited Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor Inc. of Elk Grove Villiage, Ill. for failing to protect workers from cave-ins during trenching at a commercial job site in Des Plaines, Ill. An inspector witnessed the hazard while traveling past the construction site on July 24, 2013, leading to an official inspection. The company was cited for similar hazards in April 2013 and has been placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"This is the second time in months that OSHA has seen Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor exposing workers to dangerous excavation hazards at the same job site," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "Employers that continue to ignore safety regulations put their employee's lives at risk. Trenching hazards result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. Companies specializing in this type of work have a responsibility to protect their workers from known hazards."

OSHA cited the company in April 2013 for the same hazards at this commercial construction site under OSHA's national emphasis program for trenching and excavation. After those citations, the company was placed in the SVEP. In this case, OSHA has proposed additional penalties of $150,150 for the company. The company has not responded to OSHA since the issuance of those citations.

Two willful violations were cited for failing to provide cave-in protection to workers installing a concrete manhole structure in a trench approximately 8-feet deep. The company also failed to ensure that excavated materials that posed a hazard-by 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 two repeat violations for failing to provide training to workers on trenching and excavation hazards, and ensuring 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 the same job site in April 2013.

"Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor fails to take adequate safety measures to protect workers from cave-ins at excavation sites, despite previous citations," said Angeline Loftus, 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. Neri, who has been in this business for decades, should be well aware of the safety regulations for trenching operations and the potential hazards for workers."

OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law and 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 job sites.

The company was cited for three willful and two repeat violations because of an inspection initiated in October 2012 at the same job site. Proposed penalties totaling $110,440 were issued April 2013 .

In addition to the inspection conducted in October 2012, Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor has been inspected by OSHA three other times in the past five years, resulting in serious, repeat and willful citations related to trenching hazards.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.