October 11, 2016
OAK PARK, Ill. – Less than three weeks after being cited for exposing workers to unsafe trenches, federal investigators saw a Chicago plumbing contractor exposing the same four-man crew to trenching hazards as they worked on sewer and water utilities at two locations in Oak Park on consecutive days in March 2016.
For its wanton disregard for the safety of its workers, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has placed Og Plumbing LLC in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA proposed penalties of $275,728 and issued one willful, three repeat and one serious safety citations to the plumbing contractor for the violations found at the job sites. The SVEP program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, the agency may inspect any of the employer’s facilities or job sites if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.
“After being told by an investigator to protect workers against trench cave-in hazards, Og Plumbing returned to work the next day and again exposed the same crew to the potential threat of being buried by thousands of pounds of soil and work in an unprotected trench,” said Angeline Loftus, OSHA’s area director for its Chicago North Office in Des Plaines. “Each year, dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injuries when soil unexpectedly shifts and trench walls collapse burying them in mere seconds.”
“Og Plumbing needs to evaluate its job site procedures immediately to ensure they use required protective systems. These can be the difference between life and death.”
OSHA’s inspection found:
On March 28, 2016, a four-man crew on a job site in the 1036 Washington Blvd. in Oak Park was working in a five and one-half foot-deep trench without cave-in protection and a means to enter and exit the trench. In addition, inspectors found workers not wearing hard hats.
On March 29, 2016, inspectors found the same crew working in a six-and-one-half-foot deep trench at 1035 Randolph St. in Oak Park without cave-in protection and a means to enter and exit the trench. After the investigator left the site, employees were seen re-entering the unprotected trench. As the investigator approached the trench the second time, the employees scrambled out of the trench. Shortly after this, a large section of the trench wall collapsed into the area of the trench where the employees were working.
On March 10, 2016, OSHA inspectors observed a crew installing water lines in a trench about six-feet deep at 1632 N. Western Ave., in Chicago, without cave-in protection. OSHA issued penalties of $69,300 to the company on April 25, 2016, for one willful and one repeated safety violation following its inspection.
OSHA’s trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials remain at least two feet from the edge of trench.
View current citations for Washington Boulevard and Randolph Street.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, 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 Area Office in Des Plaines 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.