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Region 5 News Release: 13-487-CHI
April 4, 2013
Contact: Rhonda Burke      Scott Allen
Phone:          312-353-6976
Email: burke.rhonda@dol.gov    allen.scott@dol.gov

US Labor Department's OSHA cites Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor
in Elk Grove Village, Ill., for failing to protect workers in trench
Company has history of failing to comply with trenching standards

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor Inc. 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 Oct. 3, 2012. 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. "These types of hazards result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. No job should cost a worker's life due to an employer's failure to properly protect and train workers."

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 job sites.

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.

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 current citations can be viewed at: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/MikeNeriSewerandWaterContractor_666698_0402_13.pdf.*

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.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Chicago North Office at 847-803-4800.

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 ensure 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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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.


* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.


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