Death of corrections officer leads to citation, fine for DOC

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TUMWATER – Lapses in training, existing policies that were not followed and failing to have other necessary safety policies in place are among the problems the Department of Labor & Industries uncovered in its six-month investigation into the death of Department of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

As a result of its investigation, L&I today is citing the DOC for two serious violations of state workplace safety rules and one repeat of a serious violation. The total proposed penalty is $26,000, nearly the maximum amount allowed under L&I's penalty structure.

"Corrections officers regularly work with a dangerous population, facing the risk with courage and dedication," L&I Director Judy Schurke said. "This is all the more reason that these workers must be given the tools to reduce the risks they face, including proper training and policies to help keep them safe."

L&I determined the workplace safety violations at the Monroe Correctional Complex resulted in several opportunities where prison staff could have responded to or noted Officer Biendl's absence much sooner had DOC's existing policies been consistently followed or had certain policies been in place.

 

The DOC has been cited for:

  • Failing to supervise and enforce training programs that were effective in practice, a repeat of a previous safety violation.
  • Failing to have an effective Accident Prevention Program by not enforcing several existing policies at the Monroe prison.
  • Failing to have policies or procedures tailored to the needs and hazards of the particular workplace, in that several policies that DOC should have had, according to industry standards, were not in place.

 

Officer Biendl was killed on Jan. 29, 2011, allegedly by Byron Scherf, an inmate at the Monroe prison. While her death has been the subject of a criminal investigation, a review by the National Institute of Corrections, and an internal review by the DOC, L&I's role is to determine whether any workplace safety rules were violated.

In Washington, state and local governments must meet the same workplace safety standards as private businesses. L&I is required to inspect state and local government worksites and investigate workplace deaths involving state and local government employees just as they do with private employers.

DOC will have 15 working days to appeal the citation. As with any citation, penalty money paid is placed in the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job. A copy of the citation and a fact sheet are available electronically.

 

Documents related to this story:
Results: L&I Safety and Health Inspection
Fact Sheet: L&I investigation, Department of Corrections workplace fatality

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

Broadcast version:
The Department of Labor & Industries' is citing the state Department of Corrections for two serious safety violations and one repeat of a previous serious safety violation following its investigation of the Jan. 29 death of corrections officer Jayme Biendl. The L&I investigation determined that there were problems with training, policies not being enforced, and safety policies that were not tailored to the workplace. The citation carries a proposed penalty of $26,000, nearly the maximum allowed under L&I's penalty structure. The DOC will have 15 working days to appeal.


 

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