Tag Archives: worker safety

Chilos Builders Fined Over $230,000

Chilos Builders, an Everett company, was fined over $230,000 for safety violations. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (DLI) cited the company for eight safety violations, including exposing employees to fall hazards while working two and three stories above ground. The company has a history of safety violations.

“We’ve cited this company for numerous safety violations the past few years, and we’ve told them many times how to protect their workers from falling from elevations,” said Anne Soiza, DLI assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). “These safety rules are in place to protect workers, and this employer is blatantly ignoring them while other employers protect their workers from harm.”

As a result of these recent violations, DLI has designated the framing contractor a severe violator. That means inspectors will continue to inspect the company’s work sites until the unsafe conditions no longer exist.

It appears from Washington State data that the corporation has been dissolved and the business closed.

Apart from these current citations, DLI has inspected Chilos Builders under its current name and a previous name, Solorio’s Framing, five times since 2016. Each of those prior inspections resulted in DLI citing the company for safety issues including fall violations. Chilos Builders has appealed the citations from one of the inspections in 2018.

In a separate action, DLI suspended the company’s contractor registration in April for failing to have liability insurance. The registration remains suspended.

The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an open inspection report with over $137,000 in safety violation fines pending, as well.

History of Workers Injured in Falls

Chilos Builders, owned by Ana Iglesias and managed by Cecilio Solorio, has reported 30 worker injuries under the two companies since 2016. The injuries include three caused by workers falling from heights of 8 to 15 feet.

Details of the Current Citations

DLI issued the recent citations for violations at job sites in the Georgetown and Ballard neighborhoods in Seattle. The fines were imposed after inspections at two Seattle construction job sites found numerous problems that placed workers at significant risk.

Georgetown: Refused to Follow Safety Rules

The most recent safety violations occurred in April when the company was helping build new apartments in Georgetown. Inspectors found inadequate safety rails on the roof, where six of the company’s framers were working just over 28 feet above ground.

In addition, there were four unguarded wall openings 9.5 feet above ground and no handrails on stairways leading to the second floor.

The Georgetown violations resulted in three citations totaling $126,000 in fines. The citations were designated “willful,” meaning the employer knew or should have known the rules, but refused to follow them.

The company corrected the safety hazards the day after inspectors first arrived.

Ballard: Fall Protection Lacking on Second and Third Floors

Two months earlier, in February, inspectors found five safety violations when the company was working in Ballard on another multi-unit residential project.

Two of the citations were considered willful, including one for failing to install fall protection on window and door openings on the three-story building. Inspectors saw at least two workers on the second floor and one worker on the third floor exposed to the potential fall hazards.

The company, which said it had 66 workers, was also cited for failing to train at least three employees on how to prevent fall hazards, failing to document weekly safety inspections and weekly safety meetings, and failing to ensure crew leaders and supervisors held valid first-aid certificates.

The Ballard site citations resulted in a total of $108,360 in fines.

Employers have 15 business days from the time they receive a citation 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.

Recent Posts on Related Topics

School Openings and Workers’ Compensation

We have received questions about teachers, school openings and workers’ compensation in light of the Coronavirus. Many teachers are worried about returning to the classroom. Workers’ compensation benefits may be available if teachers get sick in the classroom.

Reopening of Schools for 2020-2021 School Year

In Washington State, Governor Inslee is leaving the decision of when and how to reopen schools to the districts to decide. “We’ve got to give the districts some time to really to think about what works for them rather than dictating to them a one-size-fits-all solution,” Inslee said.

Governor Inslee’s July 9 Press Conference

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Juneau is recommending to the School Board that Seattle Public Schools start the 2020-21 school year remotely. They would follow the remote instruction model until the risk of significant transmission of COVID-19 has decreased enough to resume in-person instruction. The School Board will vote on Superintendent Juneau’s recommendation and an associated plan for Fall 2020 on August 12.

Superintendent Juneau recommends remote-learning instruction model.
WEA Demands Safety First

The Washington Education Association (WEA) has written that safety must come first in any plans to return to school in the fall. WEA is calling for the 2020-21 school year to begin with distance learning and virtual instruction.

Teachers, School Openings and Workers’ Compensation

Governor Inslee announced workers’ compensation coverage for quarantined health workers/first responders on March 5, 2020. The expanded coverage takes effect immediately and covers eligible workers already under quarantine. There is a presumption that, if these workers come down with COVID-19, their exposure was related to their work activities and that workers’ compensation benefits are due.

Teachers, as well as other workers that might be considered essential, do not have a presumption of coverage at this time. However, workers’ compensation claims have and should be filed if workers come down with COVID-19. The Department of Labor and Industries has acknowledged processing claims filed for COVID-19.

Workers’ compensation coverage can include medical testing, cover treatment expenses if a worker becomes ill or injured and provide time-loss payments for those who cannot work if they are sick or quarantined. A claim can also include benefits for permanent impairment or should death occur due to the virus.

Our suggestion to those that are diagnosed with COVID-19, and believe that they were exposed to the Coronavirus on the job, including teachers as well as other workers, is to file a claim with the Department of Labor and Industries. Workers can file a workers’ compensation claim up to two years after being exposed to a disease at work.

How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim

A claim can be:

  • Filed online
  • By phone: 1-877-561-FILE (3453)
  • Through your doctor’s office

As with any claim decision, the Department of Labor and Industries will issue an Order and Notice stating whether your claim is allowed or denied. You will have sixty (60) days within which to file a written protest or appeal if you disagree with the decision. A protest can be faxed, mailed or submitted to the Department online. If no protest or appeal is filed within 60 days from the date you received the order, the decision becomes final and binding on all parties.

If you have any questions, either before filing a claim or if a claim should be denied, please feel free to contact our firm for assistance. We offer a free case analysis, and would be happy to discuss the circumstances you are facing with you.

Prior Posts with Related Content

Rollbacks to Some Activities to Slow COVID-19 Exposure

Gov. Jay Inslee announced rollbacks to some activities to slow COVID-19 exposure in Washington State. Changes are being made to Washington’s “Safe Start” phased approach to reopening. The changes target activities that data have shown provide a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.

It has been four months since the governor announced the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Since then, cases in Washington have risen from 2,000 to almost 50,000, and deaths have increased from 110 to nearly 1,500.

To combat the rising numbers, the governor and Secretary of Health John Wiesman are changing guidance and regulations around restaurants, bars, and fitness centers as well as weddings and funerals. The changes will also affect family entertainment centers, movie theaters and card rooms.

“We do not take these steps lightly. We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners,” Inslee said during a press conference. “But we know that if we fail to act, we expose people and businesses to even greater risk down the line.”

Read the rest of the story on rollbacks to some activities on the governor’s Medium page.

Requirements for All Employers

The full details of the Safe Start Washington – Phased Reopening County-by-County plan is available here. The following is an outline of the requirements for employers under this plan. For all of the fine-point details, refer to the Safe Start document. In all phases – Employers are required to:

  • Provide (at no cost to employees) cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under the Department of Labor & Industries’ safety and health rules and guidance. Since June 8, all employees have been required to wear a cloth facial covering, consistent with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules and guidance.
  • Cooperate with public health authorities in the investigation of cases, suspected cases, outbreaks, and suspected outbreaks of COVID-19; cooperate with the implementation of infection control measures, including but not limited to isolation and quarantine and environmental cleaning; and comply with all public health authority orders and directives.
  • Notify the local health jurisdiction within 24 hours if it is suspected that COVID-19 is spreading in the workplace, or if you 2 or more employees develop confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within a 14-day period.
  • Keep a safe and healthy facility in accordance with state and federal law, and comply with COVID-19 worksite-specific safety practices.
  • Educate workers in the language they understand best about coronavirus and how to prevent transmission, and the employer’s COVID-19 policies.
  • Maintain minimum six-foot separation between all employees (and customers) in all interactions at all times. When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, other prevention measures are required, such as use of barriers, minimizing staff or customers in narrow or enclosed areas, and staggering breaks and work shift starts.
  • Ensure frequent and adequate hand washing with adequate maintenance of supplies. Use disposable gloves where safe and applicable to prevent virus transmission on tools or other items that are shared.
  • Establish a housekeeping schedule that includes frequent cleaning and sanitizing with a particular emphasis on commonly touched surfaces
  • Screen employees for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 at the start of their shift. Make sure sick employees stay home or immediately go home if they feel or appear sick. Cordon off any areas where an employee with probable or confirmed COVID-19 illness worked, touched surfaces, etc. until the area and equipment is cleaned and sanitized. Follow the cleaning guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control to deep clean and sanitize.
  • Post a sign requiring customers to wear cloth facial coverings, and prominently display it at the entrance to the business so that it is immediately noticeable to all customers entering the store.
  • Follow requirements in Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-46 High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights.

Businesses are also required to implement any health and safety requirements developed specifically for
their industry.

More Information for Workers

If you have questions or concerns about exposure to the Coronavirus on-the-job and how the workers’ compensation process will work, feel free to contact our firm for assistance.

For more detail about the rollbacks to some activities:

  • Read updated guidance for restaurants/taverns here
  • Read updated guidance for card rooms here
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Airline Safety for Workers and Passengers

Airline safety for workers and passengers is critical if we are ever to return to prior levels of travel. Overall, airline travel has been reduced due to COVID-19 concerns by 90% or more. Delta airlines, one of the world’s largest air carriers and employers, has implemented many changes to protect both passengers and employees from the coronavirus.

We are sharing the information published by Delta for your information. You can see Delta’s safety protocols here. Other airlines may have different procedures and protocols – check with your carrier for more information.

Safety Starts at Check-In

When passengers check in, they are required to wear a mask until they reach their destination. Delta’s employees will be wearing them as well . Surfaces are wiped down throughout the day, starting with kiosks and baggage stations. Delta will have plexiglass shields in place at check-in and gate counters by the end of May. Passengers will be encouraged to maintain a safe distance with decals at check-in, at the gate and on all Delta-owned jet bridges. 

Gate Areas and Onboard Aircraft

Delta gate areas and jet bridges are disinfected with electrostatic spraying. Before passengers board, Delta employees follow an extensive cleaning checklist with authority to hold the flight for additional cleaning if they aren’t satisfied. This includes safely sanitizing each aircraft with electrostatic spraying before every flight and wiping down tray tables and seatback screens.

Boarding will occur from back to front and be limited to 10 customers at a time to minimize contact with others. Snack bags with a sanitizing wipe will be distributed at boarding on select flights to reduce onboard service touch points. Every Delta flight is capped at 60 percent capacity and middle seats are blocked for protection.

Delta state that the air on all aircraft is completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air or through industrial-grade HEPA filters with similar performance to those used in hospital operating rooms and other highly sensitive environments. Announcements will also encourage passengers to take time when deplaning to create distance for those ahead to exit. 

Airline Safety for Workers and Passengers

Airline safety for workers and passengers is equally important. Not only are all onboard employees sharing the risk to provide service, but other workers associated with plane travel are, as well. Baggage handlers, shuttle drivers, rental car agents, TSA screeners and every worker in between is sharing this risk to keep essential travel moving.

Many passengers are also employees, traveling for their own work or business needs.

More Assistance if Injury or Illness Occurs

Workers’ compensation benefits are possible for essential workers exposed to the coronavirus. This is possible for airline employees and may be true for some passengers, on a case-by-case basis.

If you have questions about a potential claim, feel free to contact our firm for assistance. We offer a free case analysis and are happy to discuss your specific circumstances with you.

Prior Articles on Related Topics

Guidance to Help Grocery Stores Keep Workers Safe During Pandemic

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has issued specific guidance to help grocery stores and the retail industry to go along with previously released general guidance for workplaces.

While many workers in Washington are hunkering down in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19), thousands of essential workers are still on the job. Workers in grocery stores and at other essential businesses are facing exposure so everyone else can purchase food and supplies, and get other essential services.

Protecting grocery workers from coronavirus

The L&I guidance requires stores to have a social distancing plan, ensure frequent hand washing, and provide basic education to staff about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus. To protect workers, L&I strongly recommends steps like installing hand sanitizer dispensers for customers, ensuring people handling money and retrieving carts are wearing gloves, and marking on the floor and enforcing six-foot increments at checkout stands.

“Grocery and retail workers are there so the rest of us can have access to important goods and supplies,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director in charge of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). “We have to do everything in our power to keep them as safe as possible, and we ask customers to help keep them safe by practicing sensible social distancing habits when shopping.”

The L&I guidance also includes specifics for cleaning and sanitizing stores, recommends stocking and deep cleaning while the store is closed, and suggests prohibiting the use of reusable shopping bags.

Guidance for specific industries

Along with the guidance to help grocery stores and retail workers, L&I has issued guidance for janitorial workers, the trucking industry, long-term care workers, and the construction industry. All are available on the L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health coronavirus webpage. The agency is consulting with advocates for agricultural workers and the farming industry on agricultural guidance and expects to release it soon.

The nature of the outbreak changes daily and it’s important for the public and employers to stay on top of the most current information. L&I has launched a COVID-19 webpage with links to helpful information and resources. The department also recommends the federal OSHA workplace guidance to help employers prepare and deal with the outbreak.

The state coronavirus.wa.gov webpage has links to important information and guidance related to the pandemic from numerous state agencies.

Information is the best resource to keep workers and the public as safe as possible. L&I is urging employers to stay as informed as possible, and to take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.

Prior posts on this topic:

Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Violations

Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Hazard Alert

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued a Hazard Alert in June 2019 discussing roles, responsibilities, and procedures during tower crane erection and dismantling. Read the full DOSH Hazard Alert: Roles, responsibilities, and procedures during the erection and dismantling of tower cranes.

The hazard alert was issued in response to an April 27, 2019 incident where a construction tower crane collapsed in Seattle, Washington while being dismantled, fatally injuring two workers and two members of the public.

Violations Result in Fines

The Department of Labor and Industries completed it’s investigation in October 2019. During the investigation, it was found that the conditions leading up to the collapse may not have been an isolated event, but was due to procedures that have been practiced throughout the industry.

The state issued citations to: GLY Construction, Northwest Tower Crane Service, and Morrow Equipment, totaling over $107,000.00. The state did not cite two other companies involved, Omega Morgan and Seaburg Construction.

New Safety Regulations – DOSH Directive 8.55

On November 4, 2019, DOSH issued Directive, 8.55 – Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Violations which clarified the rules for the erection and dismantling of tower cranes, and established a willful penalty classification for specific tower crane erection/dismantling safety violations.

The April 2019 accident, which was found to have been “totally avoidable,” prompted the state to craft and implement the new regulations outlined in Directive 8.55.

This directive includes enforcement instructions for Compliance Officers who inspect tower cranes worksites to ensure employers provide an assembly/disassembly director and follow the manufacturer’s written procedures when erecting and dismantling tower cranes. Directive 8.55 also creates a willful violation classification, allowing for increased penalties in cases where safety is compromised.

WAC 296-155-53402 sets out the rules for safety practices when assembling and disassembling a crane/derrick.

Tower crane erection and dismantling presents safety hazards.

When the DOSH Compliance Crane Unit documents violations of either WAC 296-155-53402 (1) or WAC 296-155-53402 (17)(a) through (d) on a tower crane erection or dismantling site, the violation will be classified as willful and the penalty will be multiplied by 10.

More Information

For more information about the April 2019 accident, the Department of Labor and Industries investigation, and the citations issued, look to The Seattle Times coverage, including:

Asbestos Citations for Violations by Evergreen State College

The Evergreen State College fined for multiple asbestos violations

Asbestos citations against the Evergreen State College mean the college is facing more than $135,000 in fines for multiple violations related to asbestos and other safety issues around its Olympia, WA campus. Employers have 15 business days from the time they receive a citation to appeal.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) published a notice stating that it has cited the college for 29 serious violations; the fines for each range from $600 to $5,400. There were also two general violations with no fines. L&I opened the inspection on March 20, 2019, after receiving a complaint.

The college’s maintenance team had an employee enter a steam vault and remove damaged asbestos-containing pipe insulation without adequate protections. The college was cited for several serious violations for this and other asbestos-handling violations.

L&I also cited Evergreen for lockout/tagout violations and violations of confined space requirements. Lockout/tagout violations means the college required employees to work on electrical or powered equipment while the machinery could still operate. L&I also found violations for lack of eye protection, not meeting emergency eyewash requirements, and deficiencies in the college’s chemical hazard communication program.

Since the inspection, Evergreen has made a number of changes. The college hired a certified asbestos abatement contractor, and it sent two workers to a certified building inspector training course. The most important outcome for inspections is that an employer fixes existing hazards and prevents them from happening again.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation, including asbestos citations, 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, contact L&I Public Affairs: 360-902-5413.

Little Caesars Fined More Than $40,000 for Teen Worker Violations in WA

A Little Caesars Pizza restaurant franchise faces $42,000 in fines for youth labor law violations, including allowing teenagers to work too many hours without a rest period on more than 100 separate occasions.

NW Caesars 1 LLC is appealing the citation and fine, which is one of the largest in recent years that the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has issued for a workplace violation involving youth. A hearing date for the appeal will be set in November. 

“This is important because meal and rest breaks for teens are mandatory,” said Josie Bryan, youth employment specialist for L&I. “Not only that, but breaks can help prevent injuries on the job.”

L&I’s inspection focused on two of the franchise’s restaurants in University Place — one at 5502 Orchard St. W., and one at 7305 40th St. W.

The agency found there were more than a 100 separate instances of missed rest periods. There were also violations involving minors working during school hours, working past 10 p.m. on a school night, and working with equipment that teens under 18 are not allowed to use.

The investigation covered the time period between December 2017 and February 2018. It was prompted by a tip to L&I that teens at one of the restaurants were disassembling and reassembling a pizza dough sheeter – a machine workers under 18 are prohibited from using. In all, the company was fined $42,050.

The Lakewood based NW Caesars 1 LLC was cited and fined by L&I for similar violations in 2015, including issues related to teen hours worked, and teen workers using prohibited equipment. L&I consulted with the company about teen workplace issues.

“The law is clear; there are only certain tasks teens can do in the workplace, depending on age,” Bryan said. “Our primary goal is to keep teen workers safe, and make sure businesses are following youth labor laws.”

More information about work requirements for teens is available at www.Lni.wa.gov/TeenWorkers, and simply clicking on “Hours of Work.” There is also information about prohibited duties and teen worker safety.

12th Annual Agriculture Safety Day

The Governor’s Industrial Safety & Health Advisory Board will host the 12th Annual Agriculture Safety Day at the Wenatchee Convention Center in Wenatchee, WA on  February 24, 2016. Each year this training event just gets bigger and better!

The University of WA, Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health will be presenting a four hour course on Process Safety Management: Ammonia

New this year – we will be offering Dairy/Livestock classes led by Dr. David Douphrate, University of  Texas, School of Public Health and Dr. Robert Hagevoort, New Mexico State University, State Dairy Extension Specialist.

REGISTER ONLINE NOW!

 

Why We’re Still Killing Workers in the USA

The AFL–CIO’s annual report on job fatalities is out, and provides some interesting fodder for thought.

It’s no surprise that North Dakota – – with its “wild West” environment for oil and gas extraction on the Bakken Shale was the most dangerous place – – with 17.7 deaths per 100,000 workers versus the national average of 3.4.

Nationally, 4600 workers died on the job in 2012. While that number has fallen since safety laws were implemented in the 1970s, the decline has flat-lined over the most recent decade. It was 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2006, now still at 3.4 in 2012.

The AFL–CIO report contains maps that reflect part of the reason for the stall-out: the vast majority of the states with the highest fatality rates contain the 8 million workers in states with no federally approved OSHA safety and health plan. The report graphically portrays another salient fact: the number of federal OSHA inspectors per 1 million workers has fallen from a high of 15 in 1980 to 6.9 in 2013.  OSHA has been so underfunded over recent years that it would take an average of 139 years for available OSHA inspectors to visit each workplace in their jurisdiction just once. (In some states that number is even more staggering – – 521 years for South Dakota.)

The AFL-CIO report reflects some other interesting facts concerning the demographics of workplace fatalities – – not surprisingly, being foreign-born or Latino puts a worker at a higher risk of fatality, and homicide was the number one cause of death for women in the workplace in 2012.

But, getting back to the “oil patch” in North Dakota, we see other disturbing trends in the culture of workplace injury that accompany the decreasing application of safety regulation. With job growth tripling in North Dakota’s oil patch since 2007, while workers’ compensation filings are up, many injured workers are encouraged by employers in the extractive industries not to file, with many companies working out sidebar deals with injured workers. Injury rates are being kept artificially low by rewards for not reporting. As the AFL–CIO’s safety chief, Peg Semenario, has said, underreporting warps national safety figures in an industry that is already notoriously opaque.

And the culture of creating false indicators of workplace safety will likely have tremendous implications down the line when the 2000 tons of silica-rich sand used in the cement casing of each fracking well begins to work its way into workers’ lungs. NIOSH reported in 2012 that 92 of 116 air samples at franking sites exceeded the recommended safe levels of silica, which can lead to incurable, irreversible lung disease.

 

 Photo credit: Craig Newsom / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)