An Idaho-based drilling company lost its license to perform blasting work in Washington due to repeated blasting violations. In the latest incident, in June of 2019, an unsafe blasting operation in Spokane put workers and the public at risk and resulted in citations, fines and loss of licensing.
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited and fined North Idaho Drilling Inc. of St. Maries, ID for several willful and serious violations for the June 2019 blasting incident. In total, the company faces $92,144 in state penalties.
Rocks blasted nearly 500 feet
A crew from the drilling contractor was performing a blasting operation on North Grant Street in Spokane when the incident happened on June 21, 2019. Because the blast wasn’t planned or conducted properly, it resulted in rocks being thrown as far as 490 feet from the site – more than one-and-a-half football fields – in all directions.
Some of the rocks struck buildings, some fell on the street and some struck vehicles. Though no one was hit, several people ran for cover.
L&I has cited this employer at least two other times for similar hazardous situations, so in addition to the large fine, the department revoked North Idaho Drilling’s license to conduct blasting operations in Washington.
“There’s no margin for error with explosives, and this company has repeatedly placed workers and the public at grave risk,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director in charge of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). “This disregard for safety of the public and workers simply will not be tolerated in Washington.”
Violations were repeated and willful
This recent citation is for 11 blasting violations including three willful/serious and five serious, as well as repeat and willful general violations.
Among other things, the blaster in charge used more explosives than needed, which hurled rocks in all directions from the blast. Also, blast mats were not used properly to contain the explosion. The rocks thrown were large enough to cause serious injuries, permanent disability or death. Some did cause property damage.
The blaster-in-charge stated that he set the blast area at 350 feet, but did not ask property owners in that area for permission as required by code. Many of their buildings were damaged, showing willful neglect of property rights.
Because this was the third time L&I has cited this employer for creating serious hazards, North Idaho Drillings Inc.’s license has been revoked in Washington. L&I rarely has to cite contractors for blasting violations, so it is notable that this company has been cited multiple times. Normally, L&I citations are for hazards that endanger workers, but in cases like this, danger to the general public is also a factor.
See news coverage of this incident by KREM, here.
See news coverage of a prior North Idaho Drilling incident, which occurred in January of 2019, by KOMO, here.
Read Expert Commentary: Construction Blasting Risk Management for an outline of appropriate procedures to assure safe completion of a blasting project.
See a prior post of ours: HOLDING INDIVIDUALS ACCOUNTABLE FOR WORKPLACE SAFETY VIOLATIONS