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August 29, 1995

Landmark settlement reached with Kingdome contractors

TUMWATER - More than $21,000 in penalties resulting from last year's fatal crane accident at the Kingdome will be used to improve worker safety through the creation of a crane safety association under an agreement announced today by Labor & Industries.

This is the first time Labor & Industries' penalty dollars will be returned to an industry to make it safer for workers. Safety and health penalties normally are paid to the supplemental pension fund for victims' survivors and do not affect safety directly.

"Everyone was devastated by last summer's tragedy, but it's gratifying that the companies and unions are committed to work with us to prevent an accident like this from happening again," said Labor & Industries Director Mark O. Brown.

Under the agreement, spearheaded by the state Attorney General's Office, a new crane safety association will develop standards for man-basket safety and crane-operator competency.

The agreement stems from safety citations issued last Jan. 5 in the wake of a crane collapse that killed two workers and injured a third Aug. 17, 1994, during repairs to the Kingdome ceiling.

"We are shifting from blame to primary prevention - keeping the injuries from happening in the first place," Brown said. "Today's settlement is a legacy to those who died.

"The new association provides the opportunity to share knowledge and information on crane safety. Sharing information can prevent accidents and save lives."

Brown said the labor unions and crane companies provided "partnership and leadership" in working toward today's settlement.

Brian Satran, safety and field representative with Local 302 of the Operating Engineers Union in Seattle, said:

"We support L&I and will completely cooperate with efforts to improve safety standards in the industry. We are committed to a safer work environment."

All of the crane companies involved in the Kingdome repairs agreed to put penalty monies toward the crane association. Three of the four companies will pay the original penalty amount issued in the January 1995 citations:

  • Ness Crane Services, Inc., Seattle, $16,300.
  • Sicklesteel Cranes of South Puget Sound, Kent, $1,770.
  • Sunnen Crane Service, Tacoma, $1,670.

The penalty paid by Whatcom-Skagit Crane Service, Bellingham, was reduced to $1,365 from $2,730 under the settlement.

"Even though we did not agree with the department's assessment of safety violations against Sicklesteel, we saw the settlement agreement as an innovative way of both establishing industry safety standards and avoiding the legal costs associated with pursuing the appeal to its conclusion," said Bob Splaine of Sicklesteel Cranes.

"The association is designed so that the crane companies, labor interests and manufacturers will have the opportunity to work cooperatively on safety-related issues."

The association - open to crane companies, operating engineers union, contractors and crane manufacturers - will develop man-basket and operator competency standards. Labor & Industries also will have an association representative.

"The crane industry is taking the lead to make itself safer. This agreement takes penalty dollars and puts them to work on real safety issues," Brown said.

The association will study:

  • The use of proximity sensors.
  • Video cameras allowing the operator to see loads from within the cab that could not otherwise be seen.
  • Hard hats with built-in radio systems to allow workers to continuously remain in radio contact.
  • Provide an annual safety seminar within the crane industry.

Long Painting Company, Inc., Seattle, in a separate agreement also will conduct a seminar directly related to safety and health issues in the painting industry.

Bill Anderson, business representative with the Painters' District Council 5, in an official statement said:

"Without strong union involvement, history has more than demonstrated that safety and health citations are typically resolved through an adversarial litigation process where there are no real winners. However, in the case of the Kingdome accident, organized labor has played a significant role in ensuring a productive settlement where everybody wins.

"We applaud the cooperative efforts of all parties. However, knowing that the department lacks sufficient resources to monitor and inspect all safety hazards throughout the state, unions must continue to be vigilant in promoting worker safety. We will play an active role in ensuring that the terms of the agreements are complied with."

Negotiating settlements is a common practice for resolving appeals.

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