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A Washington company sets a bad example for workplace safety

| Nov 27, 2017 | blog, Firm News |

In workers’ compensation news, a construction company in the state of Washington has run afoul of industry safety standards.

Although no one was injured during the time when the infraction came to light, the company’s apparent disregard for employee safety serves as an example of what not to do for other companies in the construction industry.

What happened

During a visit to a Kirkland construction company’s job site, a Department of Labor & Industries inspector reviewed safety requirements for crane operations with the site superintendent. At the time, a crane was onsite but not in close proximity to the power lines. The problem developed a few days later when the Department learned that the company was operating a crane too close to overhead power lines without safety precautions in place. There should have been warning tape, visible flagging or a spotter who could alert the crane operator if he got too close to the power lines.

The penalties

The Department cited the company for two willful violations: not providing a lift director to supervise the rigging crew and crane lifts, and not ensuring that it met safety requirements for the power lines. The violations were “willful” because the L&I inspector had gone over the safety requirements with the site superintendent only days earlier. The Department fined the construction company a total of $96,000. The company also received a citation for failing to document that the rigging supervisor had passed the appropriate tests for qualification.

The consequences

In 2016, two workers suffered severe injuries near the same power lines when their bodies absorbed a high-voltage jolt of electricity that traveled down the hoist line of a crane. This figured into the L&I citations. From 1999 to 2012, nine fatalities resulted from the contact between cranes and power lines in the state of Washington, and the L&I issued safety warnings about the hazard. Companies must protect the rights of workers, whether insurance claims speak to injury or loss of life. The $96,000 fine levied on the construction company went into a supplemental workers’ compensation fund established to assist the families of workers who died on the job.