Category Archives: Safety violations

Fatal Fall Investigation Results in Citation and Fine for Aberdeen, WA Lumber Mill

An Aberdeen lumber mill has been fined $112,000 for safety violations following the death of a worker last April. Andrew Ward, 41, died when he fell from an elevated platform where he was working to the concrete surface below.

An investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has found and cited Sierra Pacific Industries for seven safety violations at the lumber mill where the incident happened.

L&I’s investigation found that a section of permanent yellow guardrail was removed from the 17-and-a-half-foot-high platform and replaced with yellow caution tape so that a crane could move some equipment. When Ward went to the edge of the platform to communicate with the crane operator below, he leaned forward and fell.

The investigation found that the employer knew that caution tape cannot be used in place of guardrails at a high elevation, but still regularly allowed it to happen. Additionally, the employer was required to provide workers with a fall protection system, such as a harness, lanyard and tie-off point, while working on the elevated platform without adequate guardrails, and when removing them.

As a result, Sierra Pacific has been cited for a willful violation, the most serious, with the maximum penalty of $70,000 for not ensuring that an open-sided work platform was adequately guarded and for not ensuring employees wore fall protection equipment.

“A death like this is especially tragic because it was completely preventable by using proper fall protection and following safe work practices,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Falls are the leading cause of worker deaths and immediate hospitalizations. Employers need to be vigilant about preventing falls.”

The employer was cited for an additional six serious violations, each with the maximum penalty of $7,000. Those violations covered a range of serious hazards that exposed workers to harm, including ineffective safety and health training; a safety program that wasn’t tailored to company operations; inadequate personal protective equipment training; untrained crane personnel; and not following safety precautions required for open flame work.

Because of the willful violation that led to the death of a worker, Sierra Pacific Industries has been placed on the severe violator list and will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist in the future.

The company has appealed the violations.

Photo credit: Safety poster by Gravitec Systems, providers of training, equipment and testing.

The Right to a Safe Workplace

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Under federal law, every employee has the right to a safe workplace. If you believe your workplace is dangerous and changes in safety policy are ignored, you can request an inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Workers’ compensation, which is regulated on a state-by-state level, covers medical bills, lost wages, disability and vocational rehabilitation services for employees injured on the job. If you have any questions regarding these benefits, please contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

 If you believe you work in an unsafe work area, here are some tips to be aware of to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible, and you protect yourself from significant injury:

  1.  Know the hazards in your workplace.
  2. While in a seated position, keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Use good form when lifting.
  3. Injuries occur when workers get tired. Take breaks when you’re tired.
  4. Do not skip safety procedures just because it makes the job easier or quicker. Using dangerous machinery is the one of the leading causes of work injuries.
  5. Be aware of where emergency shutoff switches are located.
  6. Report unsafe work areas.
  7. Wear proper safety equipment.

If you are injured due to an unsafe workplace, and you are unsure of the benefits that you are entitled to, contact an experienced attorney in your area.