Tag Archives: Employer Fines

Multiple Asbestos Violations Result in Nearly $800,000 in Fines

Improper and unsafe handling of asbestos at a Seattle area home-flipping site put workers and neighbors at risk, and has left two business owners and their companies facing numerous citations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

James Thorpe, Northlake Capital & Development, 3917 Densmore LLC, and Chris Walters have each been cited for 11 willful and serious violations. In total, the fines for the four separate investigations add up to $789,200.

“These two men endangered their workers and people who live nearby this project, including children,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “On top of that, they tried to avoid responsibility by creating a legal web of confusion over who was responsible. I hope this sends a strong message that we take worker safety and public health very seriously.”

L&I opened the inspection following a complaint from an alert neighbor living near the residential renovation project on Densmore Road in Lynnwood. Several workers were improperly removing exterior asbestos tiles from the home over a weekend. When a neighbor confronted Chris Walters, the man who said he was the homeowner, Walters promised to remove the asbestos correctly. However, two neighbors took videos that showed the workers committing several violations.

An extensive investigation by L&I revealed that Walters was actually part of a complex corporate partnership created to renovate and flip the residence.

The home was initially purchased by Seattle company Northlake Capital & Development, owned by James Thorpe. Northlake is a real property company that primarily focuses on house flipping. After the purchase, Thorpe created 3917 Densmore LLC and established Walters, a Northlake employee, as the sole member of the new corporation, claiming that Walters was the homeowner, and that he intended to live in the home.

During parts of the investigation Walters and Thorpe shifted responsibility from LLC to LLC and from person to person. Eventually, L&I cited both men and the companies they oversee for the same violations. The fines vary, primarily due to the number of workers each entity was responsible for. Thorpe and Northlake each received $214,100 in fines and Walters and 3917 Densmore each receive $180,500.

The violations included using uncertified workers to remove asbestos; not using a certified asbestos supervisor; and not obtaining an asbestos good faith survey prior to beginning work. They were also cited for not using water and not keeping the shingles intact during removal (the workers were breaking the tiles with hammers); for the lack of proper personal protective equipment for workers; not monitoring the air during removal; and for not having a written accident prevention program.

Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Only a certified abatement contractor that follows the specific asbestos related safety and health rules may remove and dispose of asbestos-containing building materials.

An employer has 15 business days from the time a citation is received to appeal, and each of these citations is currently under appeal.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

Westport, WA Seafood Company Fined More Than $100,000 for Unsafe Forklifts

Forklifts are among the most hazardous vehicles in the workplace, with a great risk of injury and death if they’re not maintained and operated safely. Employers who knowingly and repeatedly expose workers to unsafe forklifts may face stiff penalties.

That’s what happened with a company in Westport. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Ocean Gold Seafoods Inc., a total of $117,740 for willful and repeated serious workplace safety violations at its seafood processing plant. Many of the violations were related to forklift safety.

The fines include a willful violation with the maximum allowed penalty of $70,000 for not performing regular safety inspections and not fixing defective items on the vehicles, like nonworking horns and broken seatbelts.

An L&I inspection found that the company rarely performed forklift inspections, and defects that were reported weren’t fixed. There were several instances where forklift seatbelts weren’t in working order, including one that was pulled completely out and wouldn’t retract. Other defects included machines without working horns. This prevented operators from notifying employees in limited visibility areas that a forklift was coming through the door and put pedestrians at risk of being struck and killed.

The employer was cited for a repeat-serious violation with a penalty of $15,400 after the inspector saw two workers operating forklifts without wearing their seatbelts. The seafood company was cited for the same issue in August 2015.

Being crushed by a forklift tipping over is the leading cause of forklift-related deaths in the U.S. If there’s an accident or tip-over, operators are much safer strapped into the seat because they are at lower risk of falling out.

Ocean Gold was cited for nine additional violations for exposing workers to fall hazards; failure to ensure emergency brakes were set on unattended forklifts; defective stair tread; exposed electrical wires; equipment and clutter stored in front of control panels; and unsafe use of extension cords. The violations carried penalties totaling $32,340.

A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. General violations are the lowest level and are cited when the violation itself wouldn’t cause serious injury or death.

The employer has 15 days to appeal. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.