Lumber Mill Fined After Fatal Fall

"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," according to Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has cited Sierra Pacific Industries for seven safety violations at the lumber mill where a worker died in April. The Aberdeen, Wash., lumber mill has been fined $112,000 for safety violations in connection with the death of Andrew Ward, 41, who died when he fell from an elevated platform onto a concrete surface below.

L&I said its investigation found that a section of permanent yellow guardrail was removed from the 17.5-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," according to the agency.

It reported that Sierra Pacific has been cited for a willful violation 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 company also was cited for six serious violations, each with the maximum penalty of $7,000. Those violations covered ineffective safety and health training; a safety program that wasn't tailored to company operations; inadequate PPE training; untrained crane personnel; and not following safety precautions required for open-flame work.

L&I said 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 whether the conditions still exist in the future. The company has appealed the citations.

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