Bellingham construction company fined more than a quarter-million dollars after a worker falls to his death from a Vantage bridge
TUMWATER — A Bellingham construction company is facing nearly $284,000 in fines for not ensuring safeguards were in place to keep workers from falling off the Beverly Railroad bridge spanning the Columbia River in Vantage, Wash.
A 39-year-old man fell approximately 60 feet from the bridge deck to the ground below last August while laying concrete curing blankets as part of a bridge restoration project.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited Boss Construction Inc. with two egregious serious willful violations for not ensuring workers were using fall protection. State inspectors determined that many of the workers did not use fall protection on the day of the incident and on multiple other days.
“Managers and a foreman were working side-by-side with workers—none of them wearing fall protection,” said Craig Blackwood, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “That tells us the employer knowingly allowed employees to work on the bridge without using the required safety equipment.”
Multiple employee interviews corroborated the lack of fall protection during the project and spoke to a lack of safety enforcement leading up to the fatal fall.
L&I inspectors observed a catenary line — a horizontal line anchored at each end that workers can attach to for safety — installed on only one side of the bridge deck. The line spanned approximately 2,600 feet, but did not span the entire 3,052 feet of the bridge. That left about 200 feet on each end on one side of the bridge without a line for workers to attach to as they walked on the bridge. The other side of the bridge had no catenary line and was completely unguarded for the full span. Guardrails had been removed several months prior to the incident leaving a flat, unguarded surface.
L&I also cited Boss Construction for not having a rescue boat immediately available and not having ring buoys with ropes or life vests that are required for workers not using fall protection while working over water.
The work on the bridge was being done under contract with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. In a separate incident, Parks was also fined for having an employee on the bridge without fall protection.
Penalties and appeal rights
Boss Construction has until Feb. 8 to appeal the citation and fines. Money paid as a result of a citation goes into the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.
Matt Ross, L&I Public Affairs, 360-706-4857