A judge has ordered the owner of an Illinois contracting company to be taken into custody for defying OSHA orders to correct what the agency has described as serious trenching hazards and for failing to pay fines.
U.S. Marshals are looking for Mike Neri, owner of an eponymously named sewer and water contracting firm based in Elk Grove Village, after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion last month from the Secretary of Labor to place him into the custody of the Attorney General. The government sought the action based on “the owner's long history of failing to comply with OSHA standards and orders of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission,” OSHA said in the November 3 issue of OSHA QuickTakes.
Legal action began in October 2013 when the Court issued an enforcement order against Neri. When he failed to comply, the Court held him in contempt and threatened him with possible incarceration. The custody order came after Neri failed to respond. According to OSHA, once apprehended, Neri would remain in custody until a judge certifies to the Court that Neri either has complied fully with the Court's enforcement order or has demonstrated he is unable to comply.
Mike Neri Sewer & Water Contractor, Inc. was cited in October 2012 for seven alleged OSHA violations, including three willful infractions for failing to protect workers from cave-ins and moving soil and chunks of asphalt during trenching operations. Willful violations are written for alleged intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements or plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Neri also was cited for 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. The enforcement action came after an inspector observed potential cave-in hazards at a Neri worksite in Des Plaines. Proposed penalties totaled $110,440.
The 2012 violations earned Neri a place in OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program. SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers and mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Prior to that inspection, the company had been inspected by OSHA three times in the previous five years and had been issued serious, repeat and willful citations related to various trenching hazards.