L&I Says Wash. Deaths Could Have Been Prevented

April 18, 2005

The reported lack of relatively simple precautions on rooftop work sites has led to the deaths of two workers in King County, Washington, and the state Department of Labor and 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.

Three of the contractors have appealed the citations.

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