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March 9, 2014

Union files safety complaint against MAC on New Albany project

MAC attorney claims no citations issued; state says investigation ongoing

NEW ALBANY — The Midwest Regional Laborers International Union has filed a complaint against MAC Construction & Excavating, Inc., for an alleged violation of safety standards, but a MAC spokesman says the company has done nothing wrong.

The complaint, filed Feb. 26 by the Laborers Union, alleges that MAC had at least one worker performing work in a trench that was 10 to 12-feet deep without trench collapse protection at a work site along Grant Line Road in New Albany, according to a news release issued by the Indiana Construction Information Network, or INCIN, the public relations arm of the union.

“OSHA safety standards generally require some sort of trench-shoring or trench-collapse protection in trenches greater than five feet deep to prevent workers from getting trapped by cave-ins,” according to the INCIN release. “Trench collapse and cave-ins are the leading cause of worker fatalities on construction sites.”

David Williams, field operations coordinator for the Laborers Union and director of INCIN, said that the union submitted the complaint along with photos of the alleged violation to the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Williams declined to provide the photos to the News and Tribune, citing the ongoing nature of the IOSHA investigation. But he said the photos show at least one MAC employee in a deep trench without any trench shoring equipment evident.

“We can see the top of a hard hat,” Williams noted.

When contacted by the News and Tribune for comment, MAC issued a news release of its own in which it touted its safety record.

“Apparently, the Laborers Union is not busy enough serving the needs of its own members/employees and instead continues to bully others like MAC,” wrote Bryan Wickens, vice president of administration and general counsel for MAC. “It is also no surprise, given MAC’s track record, impressive awards and recognition and commitment to safety that after IOSHA looked into the matter, it determined that no citations for any violations were warranted against MAC.”

That’s inaccurate, said Bob Dittmer, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Labor.

“IOSHA has never said such a thing,” Dittmer said. “This case is not closed.”

Dittmer said an investigator with IOSHA has visited the worksite and had an informal briefing with the involved parties, but a formal decision has not been rendered. IOSHA can take up to six months to issue a report stemming from a safety complaint, but Dittmer said the investigation of this incident would likely be concluded in two to three months.

The INCIN release notes that the complaint filed with IOSHA isn’t the only one pending against MAC. According to the federal OSHA website, four “serious” violations were identified at a MAC worksite in Prospect, Ky., in August. Four fines of $7,000 apiece were issued against MAC in November, but the website shows that the fees are being contested by MAC. The violations appear to be trench-related, based on the OSHA standards cited.

MAC did not address the specifics of the complaint in its release. Instead, Chad Unruh, MAC owner and CEO, said the Laborers Union has singled it out because of the company’s non-union stance.

“It really is a shame in today’s society that there are groups or entities like the Laborers Union that devote their time and effort to attacking or bullying companies like MAC that are determined to do the right thing for the right reasons, provide quality, good-paying jobs for a significant number of families in this region, and day in and day out is committed to excellence in all aspects of its operations,” Unruh said, “all because we believe in the open shop/merit shop philosophy and the freedom for all to compete fairly. I truly believe that people know and understand what is going on when they see or hear things like this and are tired of it.”

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