DOL Seeks Notice of Company's Work Sites, Third-Party Audits

"This is only the second time that the department has invoked the statutory authority to order 'other appropriate relief,'" said Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith. "All available legal tools will be used where necessary to protect workers from future harm."

In an unusual move, the U.S. Labor Department is seeking an administrative court order requiring Gerardi Sewer & Water Co., a Norridge, Ill.-based contractor, to provide a monthly report to OSHA of its work locations, permit unannounced job site audits by qualified independent consultants, and train workers annually on cave-in protection for the next two years. OSHA's assistant secretary, Dr. David Michaels, said, "The company's severe violator history has led us to seek this order to ensure that these work sites are safe for employees. Cave-ins are the leading cause of death in trenching operations, and Gerardi Sewer & Water Co. has demonstrated a history of blatant disregard for worker safety."

The department filed an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission after Gerardi Sewer & Water contested 13 citations and $360,000 in penalties issued Dec. 17, 2010, by OSHA. DOL asked the commission to uphold the cited violations and penalties and also issue an order for additional compliance requirements to ensure the safety of workers on future job sites.

The citations allege the company did not protect workers from cave-ins during trenching operations noted in four separate inspections conducted in 2010 as part of OSHA's Trenching and Excavation Special Emphasis Program. The citations are for work done in Elmhurst, Park Ridge, Oak Lawn, and Des Plaines, Ill.

"This is only the second time that the department has invoked the statutory authority to order 'other appropriate relief,'" said Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith. "All available legal tools will be used where necessary to protect workers from future harm."

OSHA says the citations meet the requirements of its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which is intended to focus enforcement resources on "employers with a history of safety violations that endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law." SVEP dictates follow-up inspections and inspections by OSHA of other work sites of the same employer where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present.

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