175 violations lead to one of the largest worker safety fines in state history for King County business
TUMWATER — Three confidential complaints from an employee of a King County business have resulted in 175 safety and health violations and a $2 million fine from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
L&I conducted inspections in Nov. and Dec. 2022 at Young Corporation’s Seattle headquarters, where they make excavator equipment, and two other divisions of the company: the Nordick Manufacturing machine shop division in Woodinville; and the Meltec Foundry division, also in Seattle.
Across the three locations, L&I found 31 willful serious, seven willful general, 94 serious and more than 40 general violations. The total fine, $2,013,120, is among the largest in L&I history.
Willful violations are cited when a business intentionally ignores a hazard or rule. Serious violations occur when a worker is exposed to a hazard that could cause injury or death.
Among the many safety and health hazards inspectors found:
- Cranes that had not been inspected for years;
- Damaged wire ropes and rigging;
- Unqualified crane operators and riggers;
- Machinery with no protective guards, and pits without railings;
- Crumbling and falling ceiling tiles that contained asbestos;
- A roof leaking on electrical wiring;
- Respirators covered in paint overspray;
- Welders not wearing protective helmets; and,
- Workers eating, drinking, and smoking in the presence of toxic chemicals.
“The number and gravity of the hazards is staggering, one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “They had safety meetings where they talked about and documented the hazards, but they never took any action.
“We’re imposing significant penalties so workers’ lives are not put at risk again.”
Employees were working in noise levels so extreme at some points, they couldn’t be read on L&I’s noise meters. Extreme noise can cause permanent hearing loss.
Workers were also exposed to dangerous chemicals at levels well beyond legal limits, including hexavalent chromium and crystalline silica. Hexavalent chromium exposure increases the risk of lung, nasal, and sinus cancer among other serious health effects. Crystalline silica exposure can lead to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and death.
Several of the willful serious violations stem from 28 instances of crane safety hazards. L&I requires regular safety inspections of cranes depending on exposure to wear and tear or malfunction. Young Corporation failed to request third party inspection or perform its own internal inspection of its cranes for more than three years and ignored serious deficiencies found the last time they did, in March of 2020. Crane failures can have devastating and deadly consequences.
Young Corporation has filed an appeal. Money collected from fines goes into the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.
Dina Lorraine, L&I Public Affairs, 360-972-4868.
Photo of Young Corporation employee welding with his welding helmet up, so he had no protection for his eyes against the welding rays.
Photo shows Young Corporation employee on the far right working around molten metal during pouring operations without appropriate face protection. All other employees were wearing face shields during the pour.
Photo shows dirty respirator and filters covered in paint overspray. The employee pulled the respirator out of his storage bag like this.
Photo shows microwave and the refrigerator used to store the employees’ food or drinks located in their welding area. The employees take all their breaks and lunches in their work areas where they may be exposed to toxic substances.