Big Fine Issued in Washington State Forklift Case

The $117,740 in penalties includes a willful violation with the maximum allowed penalty of $70,000 for not performing regular safety inspections and not fixing defective items such as broken horns and broken seat belts.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries recently announced it has cited Ocean Gold Seafoods Inc. and issued $117,740 in penalties to the company for willful and repeated serious workplace safety violations at its seafood processing plant in Westport, Wash., with many of the violations related to forklift safety.

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, L&I noted, adding that employers who knowingly and repeatedly expose workers to unsafe forklifts may face stiff penalties. In this case, 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 such as broken horns and broken seat belts.

L&I reported its inspection found the company rarely performed forklift inspections and defects that were reported were not fixed. "There were several instances where forklift seat belts 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," according to the agency, which also cited the employer for a repeat-serious violation with a penalty of $15,400 after the inspector saw two workers operating forklifts without wearing their seat belts. The company was cited for the same violation in August 2015.

Other violations involved fall hazards; failure to ensure emergency brakes were set on unattended forklifts; a defective stair tread; exposed electrical wires; equipment and clutter stored in front of control panels; and unsafe use of extension cords.

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