An Aberdeen lumber mill has been fined $112,000 for safety violations following the death of a worker last April. Andrew Ward, 41, died when he fell from an elevated platform to the concrete surface below.
An investigation by the State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Sierra Pacific Industries for seven safety violations at the mill.
L&I’s study found that a section of permanent yellow guardrail was removed from the 17-and-a-half-foot-high platform and replaced with yellow caution tape. When Ward went to the edge of the platform to communicate with an operator below, he leaned forward and fell.
The investigation found that Sierra Pacific managers 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.
As a result, Sierra Pacific has been cited for a willful violation, the most serious, 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.
The employer was also cited for an additional six serious violations, each with the maximum penalty of $7,000. Because of the willful violation that led to the death of a worker, the mill operator has been placed on the severe violator list and will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist in the future.
The company has appealed the violations.