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April 13, 2005

Simple precautions could have spared lives of two workers

TUMWATER — The lack of relatively simple precautions on rooftop work sites has led to the deaths of two workers in King County, and the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is warning contractors to head off such tragedies that are so easy to avoid.

In Aug. 2004, a worker on a commercial construction site died after falling 29 feet through a skylight opening. In Sept. 2004, a residential construction worker suffered fatal injuries after he fell 15 feet through an unguarded roof opening.

The recent deaths prompted L&I to issue a hazard alert to roofing and construction contractors reminding them of the dangers of unguarded openings. L&I safety regulations require that skylights and roof and floor openings be properly covered or guarded at all times. The hazard alert is online at the L&I web site at www.lni.wa.gov/safety/basics/HazAlerts.

“When people are focused on their work, it’s easy to lose track of something they know is there, such as a hole in the roof,” said Michael Wood, acting head of L&I’s workplace safety program. “That’s why it’s so important to be relentless about safety. A few minutes of work to cover the roof openings would have sent those guys home from work that day alive and well. A warning to everyone to ‘be careful’ just doesn’t get the job done.”

Since 1998, eight construction workers in Washington state have died after falling through unguarded skylights and roof and floor openings.

Four King County contractors were cited for safety hazards related to the two deaths that occurred last year. All four companies were cited for exposing workers to fall hazards:

  • CDK Construction Services of Duvall, cited for one willful, one serious and one general violation for a total penalty of $55,000.
  • Teague Welding and Pipe Service of Renton, cited for two willful, four serious, and two general violations for a total penalty of $53,100.
  • Bruce’s Roofing, LLC, of Enumclaw, cited for one repeat-serious and one serious violation for a total penalty of $18,000.
  • Elko Construction of Bellevue, cited for three serious and two general violations for a total penalty of $6,500.

A “serious” violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from an existing condition, and “willful” is cited when the department finds an employer intentionally or knowingly violated rules or knew that a violation was occurring and was plainly indifferent to correcting it. Penalties are adjusted based on the size of the employer, past history and good faith efforts to comply with regulations.

Three of the contractors have appealed the citations.

L&I’s Washington State Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA) program conducts about 7,000 workplace inspections each year. In addition, WISHA offers free consultations, workshops, videos and training resources (www.LNI.wa.gov/Safety) to help employers meet safety and health requirements and promote safety in their workplaces.

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For media information: Contact Elaine Fischer, L&I, 360-902-5413 or nele235@LNI.wa.gov, or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.LNI.wa.gov/News.

Broadcast version

The Department of Labor & Industries is warning construction contractors that unguarded skylights and roof and floor openings are a fatal hazard that led to the deaths of two King County workers last year.

There have been a total of eight similar deaths in Washington since 1998. L&I safety regulations require that skylights and roof and floor openings be properly covered or guarded at all times. Four King Country contractors were cited for safety violations related to the two recent incidents.

For more information or assistance, please see the L&I web site at LNI.wa.gov or call the local L&I office.

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