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August 25, 1999

Contractor fined for willful violations in Lynnwood worker death

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has fined an Arlington contractor more than $172,000 for willful violations of safety rules in connection with the death of a 28-year-old utilities worker in a trench last March.

The agency cited DLR Utilities of Arlington for six willful, four serious and four general violations of regulations intended to protect workers from hazards found at trenching and excavation worksites. Penalties totaling $172,640 were assessed.

Guy R. Daggett of Arlington suffered fatal injuries March 1, 1999, when he was caught between the wall of a trench and the bucket of an excavator that he was using for access into the 12-foot-deep trench. The trench was part of a sewer installation project in a residential section of Lynnwood.

Willful violations indicate 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 company willfully:

  • Failed to ensure that a competent person was assigned to the jobsite to assure the safety of the employees working in the trench. Additionally, the employer failed to ensure that adequate precautions were taken to protect employees working in trenches with accumulated water - which increases the probability of a trench cave-in. ($28,000 penalty)
  • Failed to ensure that employees working in trenches up to 13 feet deep were protected from potential cave-ins. In one instance where shielding was used, it was not used in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications. ($28,000)
  • Failed to ensure that employees working in trenches up to 13 feet deep had safe means to enter and exit the trench. Employees rode the bucket of the excavator, a practice prohibited by industry standards and the manufacturer's safe operating procedures. ($28,000)
  • Failed to ensure that employees working in trenches up to 13 feet deep were protected from the collapse of undermined sidewalks, pavements and other overhead hazards. In one instance, workers attempting to fix a natural gas leak in a trench were exposed to potential serious or fatal injuries from an overhanging pavement that was undermined and in danger of breaking loose and falling on them. ($24,000)
  • Failed to provide training to improve the skill and ability of employees to safely work on underground utility construction projects. Workers were left to independently determine safe methods based on experience. As a result, employees routinely were exposed to hazardous conditions, including trench-wall collapse, falls, hazardous atmospheres, overhead hazards, objects falling into trenches and motor vehicle traffic. ($28,000)
  • Failed to meet multiple requirements when workers are exposed to the hazards of confined spaces. Confined-space hazards include engulfment, asphyxiation, electrocution and creation of flammable atmosphere. ($28,000)

DLR Utilities also was cited for four serious violations, including:

  • Failure to ensure that a method was in place - prior to the beginning of work - for the prompt and safe removal of injured employees from trenches and excavations. ($3,600)
  • Failure to ensure that workers were protected from the hazard of excavated materials, equipment and other materials falling into the trench. ($3,000)
  • Failure to medically evaluate two employees exposed to blood following the fatal incident. The regulation is intended to mitigate the risk associated with potential exposure to bloodborne diseases. ($1,020)
  • Failure to ensure that equipment involved in a fatality or probable fatality was not moved until authorized by an L&I representative. ($1,020)

The employer also was cited for four general violations relating to deviating from manufacturer's specifications, accident prevention programs and hazardous chemicals. No penalties were assessed for these violations.

The employer has 15 working days from receipt of the violation report to appeal.

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