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February 9, 1999

Investigations reveal multiple violations in teen worker's death

TUMWATER - Investigations into the August death of a teenage window washer have revealed multiple violations of state law including worker-safety regulations, minor-worker rules and contractor-registration requirements, according to the Department of Labor & Industries.

L&I initiated investigations of Jeffrey W. Rogers, doing business as Olympic EBM, of Des Moines, immediately after 15-year-old Brian D. Schwartz of Tukwila was dragged to his death from the roof of a four-story office building at Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle last Aug 21. An adult worker was seriously injured in the incident, also.

L&I launched three separate investigations in the wake of the incident. The first, performed under authority of the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), determined that there were eight violations of worker safety regulations, including two willful violations. Penalties totaled $63,200.

A second investigation disclosed that Olympic was employing the Tukwila teenager and another teen to perform prohibited work in violation of minor-worker laws. A maximum penalty of $4,000 ($2,000 for each teenager) was assessed. In addition, the company's permit to employ minors was revoked.

A third investigation determined that Olympic was operating as a painting contractor without a license as required by state law. The company subsequently obtained a license and no penalty was assessed.

The worker safety (WISHA) violations included two willful violations. This means that the employer knowingly or intentionally violated worker-protection rules, or exhibited plain indifference that a violation was occurring and failed to take corrective action.

Specifically, the employer was cited for:

    • Willfully failing to provide training related to scaffold anchoring, harnesses and personal protective equipment. ($28,000 penalty)
    • Willfully failing to ensure that worker lifelines were securely attached to the building rather than the portable roof scaffolding that supported the boatswain's chair. The worker on the roof had his body harness lanyard attached to the portable roof rig. ($28,000)

The employer was cited for three serious violations, including:

    • Failure to ensure that the scaffold was rigged correctly. ($2,400)
    • Failure to ensure that the scaffold was not moved laterally while the rig was in use or occupied. ($2,400)
    • Failure to develop and implement a formal written accident prevention program tailored to the needs of operation and hazards of the worksite. ($2,400)

The employer also was cited for three general violations including:

    • Failure to establish a safety committee.
    • Failure to ensure that first-aid trained personnel were available or a first-aid response plan to render assistance in the event of an accident.
    • Failure to have written certification that a workplace hazard assessment had been performed as required.

Penalties were not assessed for the general violations.

The employer has 15 working days from receipt of the investigation results to appeal the violations and penalties.

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