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April 4, 1998

Kaiser Aluminum-Mead cited, fined for fatal smelter accident

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has cited and fined the Kaiser Aluminum Corp. a total of $35,000 for five safety violations in connection with the accidental death of a mechanic at the company's Mead smelter last fall.

L&I opened an investigation with the company Oct. 27, 1997, in connection with the death of James VanDoren, 33, a garage mechanic who died from injuries received while servicing a small loader at the plant north of Spokane. VanDoren was caught between a bucket lift arm assembly and the loader's frame.

Under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), L&I is required to investigate all occupational fatalities. Investigators said the bucket's lift arm had been raised and propped up with piece of angle iron while the loader was being serviced. VanDoren was injured when the angle iron was dislodged and the bucket assembly came down, trapping the mechanic.

The violations focused on the employer's failure to provide hazardous energy controls - "lockout/tagout" program. Before workers perform maintenance or service work on any equipment, employers must ensure that locks or blocks are in place to prevent any operation of the equipment or release of hazardous energy that could harm the worker. The employer must provide the lockout devices, develop procedures for placing them, train the employees and periodically check to make sure that the procedures are being followed.

Specifically, Kaiser was cited for:

  • Failing to provide adequate energy-isolating devices to safely support the lift arms of the loader. Additionally, the employer did not ensure that the manufacturer's approved safety devices were maintained, made available and used (in this instance, the lift arm support device). ($7,000 penalty)
  • Failing to adopt specific safe work practices and procedures for service and maintenance of mobile equipment. ($7,000)
  • Failing to provide adequate training in the methods and means necessary for isolation and control of hazardous energy associated with servicing and maintaining the loader. ($7,000)
  • Failing to conduct periodic inspection of the hazardous energy control program with garage mechanics to correct hazards associated with servicing and maintaining the loaders. ($7,000)
  • Failing to ensure that periodic inspections of the hazardous energy control program included an annual review of each worker. ($7,000)

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

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