US Labor Department's OSHA fines Chicago-area contractor $360,000
for failing to provide trench cave-in protection for workers
Gerardi Sewer & Water Co. fined during work in 4 municipalities
NORRIDGE, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued Gerardi Sewer & Water Co. in Norridge eight willful, two serious and three repeat safety citations for failing to protect workers from cave-ins during trenching operations. The citations arose from work the company performed in the Illinois villages of Elmhurst, Park Ridge, Oak Lawn and Des Plaines. Gerardi faces proposed penalties of $360,000.
"Cave-ins are a leading cause of worker fatalities during excavations," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "At each of these four jobsites, Gerardi's president and foreman were present and still failed to protect their workers despite their knowledge of required safety procedures. This situation demonstrates a systemic problem with the way this company approaches safety and demonstrates an egregious disregard for workers' lives."
OSHA issued willful citations alleging that Gerardi failed to properly protect workers from trench cave-ins, the result of four separate inspections conducted under the OSHA Trenching and Excavation Special Emphasis Program. The inspections occurred June 25 in Elmhurst, July 28 in Park Ridge, Sept. 21 in Oak Lawn and Nov. 17 in Des Plaines. 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 standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Employees were found to be working at varying depths from 5.9 to 8 feet without cave-in protection during the inspections. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/index.html.
"OSHA implemented a Trenching and Excavation Special Emphasis Program in the 1980s, so the industry is well aware of the safety regulations for trenching operations," said OSHA Area Director Kathy Webb in North Aurora, Ill. "Gerardi Sewer & Water has been inspected and cited by OSHA numerous times. There is no excuse for noncompliance at its jobsites."
Gerardi Sewer & Water Co. was issued repeat citations alleging that employees failed to wear hard hats and high-visibility vests at the Elmhurst site, and that Gerardi failed to provide a safe means of access and egress for employees working in an excavation site in Des Plaines. A repeat citation is issued 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.
The company was issued serious citations for allegedly failing to ensure that water accumulations were removed from a trench at both the Elmhurst and Des Plaines sites. A serious citation is issued 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.
This case meets the criteria for OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Initiated in the spring of 2010, SVEP is intended to focus on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on SVEP, go to http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf*.
Prior to the four inspections detailed above, Gerardi Sewer and Water Co. had been inspected by OSHA eight times since 1987, resulting in 15 prior citations.
Gerardi Sewer and Water Co. 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. Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards can call OSHA's North Aurora Area Office at 630-896-8700. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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