WSDOT worker's death leads to citation, fine for safety violations

See more More news releases

TUMWATER – The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has concluded its investigation of the Jan. 16, 2011, death of Billy Rhynalds, a maintenance technician for the state Department of Transportation, citing WSDOT for four serious safety violations.

The citation, issued July 15, carries a proposed financial penalty of $22,000. WSDOT will have 15 working days to inform L&I whether it plans to appeal the citation.

On the night of Jan. 16, Mr. Ryhnalds was responding to a report of a tree that had fallen on communication lines along Highway 203 near Carnation. While setting up highway cones to divert traffic, he was struck by a second tree that fell.

The trees were part of a grove of cottonwoods along the banks of the Snoqualmie River, which had flooded, saturating the ground. The flood waters undermined the roots, and the high winds of that evening brought the trees down.

L&I is citing WSDOT for:

  • Failing to tailor its Accident Prevention Program to the needs of their workplace. Field personnel are required to respond to natural hazard calls, but have no clear direction on assessing the scenes for their personal safety.
  • Failing to develop and implement training programs to improve the skill and awareness of employees. Records show that not all maintenance technicians have been trained on chain saw safety, basic tree falling techniques or recognizing hazardous trees.
  • Failing to ensure their Accident Prevention Program was effective in practice. WSDOT had developed a pre-activity safety plan for all workers and supervisors to complete before any activity, but did not enforce its use.
  • Failing to provide adequate lighting for the job. Mr. Rhynalds had no working spotlight on his truck that would have allowed him to survey the area for potential hazards.

For a copy of the citation, please contact L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-6043.


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

Broadcast version:
The Department of Labor & Industries’ is citing the state Department of Transportation for four serious safety violations following its investigation of the Jan. 16 death of WSDOT maintenance technician Billy Rhynalds. On the night of his death, Mr. Rhynalds had responded to a report of a fallen tree on Highway 203 near Carnation when he was struck by a second tree and killed. WSDOT was cited for failing to provide direction to workers on assessing their safety in hazardous situations, failing to train some on chain saw safety, and failing to provide adequate lighting for the work.



If you no longer want to receive e-mail from this mailing list, you can unsubscribe or if you need to change your subscription to a different e-mail address, go to to leave the list and/or rejoin it with a new e-mail address.

You may also visit the L&I News Center at to see or search the archives of news releases sent out by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

© Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.