Worker's death leads to citation for Department of Natural Resources

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TUMWATER – The Department of Labor & Industries has cited the Department of Natural Resources for five serious safety violations following an investigation into the death of Samuel Gaydeski, a heavy equipment operator for DNR. The citation carries a proposed penalty of $16,650.

Mr. Gaydeski was discovered dead beneath his brush-cutter on Feb. 14, 2011. He had been working alone on a logging road west of Forks, clearing brush with a 314C Cat excavator that had an attached brush-cutting head. L&I inspectors determined that Mr. Gaydeski left his excavator running when he stepped out of the cab and approached the brush cutter. He was struck by the rotating cutting head and killed.

A supervisor eventually learned that Mr. Gaydeski's vehicle was still in the parking lot of the main office long after closing, drove to the worksite and discovered the body.

L&I is citing DNR for:

  • Not having written procedures specific to the work task of operating the brush cutter and excavator. Workplace safety rules for logging require an Accident Prevention Program that includes written procedures for recognizing hazards associated with the operation of logging equipment, such as the brush cutter Mr. Gaydeski was using.
  • Failing to have specific procedures in place for shutting down the Cat excavator and brush cutter to prevent accidental start-up, what is called a lockout/tagout program.
  • Not ensuring employees are trained and understand the purpose of a lockout/tag out program. Inspectors interviewing other workers found it was common to leave the cutting disc rotating when investigating any unusual sounds from the equipment.
  • Not checking on the welfare of an employee working alone. Logging safety rules require a procedure to check on the welfare of employees working alone throughout their shift. Inspectors found DNR had no such system, which is why no one knew Mr. Gaydeski had been killed until nearly three hours after the end of his shift.
  • Having no procedure for employees working in the woods to check-in at the end of the day. At the start of their shifts, employees communicated where they would be working, but there was no process for having them report to their supervisors when they returned.

In Washington, state and local governments must meet the same workplace safety standards as private businesses. L&I is required to inspect state and local government worksites and investigate workplace deaths involving state and local government employees just as they do with private employers.

DNR will have 15 working days to appeal the citation. As with any citation, penalty money paid is placed in the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job. For a copy of the citation, please contact L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-6043.

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For media information: Hector Castro, L&I, 360-902-6043.

Broadcast version:
The Department of Labor & Industries' is citing the state Department of Natural Resources for five serious safety violations following its investigation of the Feb. 14 death of heavy equipment operator Samuel Gaydeski. Mr. Gaydeski was working alone, clearing brush on a logging road near Forks, when he was struck in the head by a brush cutter and killed. A supervisor found the body hours after the end of Mr. Gaydeski's shift. The citation includes a proposed penalty of $16,650. The violations include DNR's failure to have a procedure to check on the welfare of employees working alone.

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