Cal/OSHA Cites California Ski Resort Following Patrolmen Deaths

October 7, 2006

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), cited Mammoth Mountain Ski Area $49,865 following an investigation into the accidental deaths of three of their ski patrolmen.

“As a result of our investigation, inspectors determined that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area failed to have proper procedures in place to evaluate hazards associated with volcanic fumaroles and failed to provide training to employees performing rescue and medical duties associated with the dangerous fumaroles,” said Len Welsh, Cal/OSHA acting chief. “If standard practices had been followed, this catastrophic event might not have occurred.”

Located in the Sierra Mountains of Central California, the small town of Mammoth Lakes sits on an active volcano running along the San Andreas Fault line. On April 6, 2006, two area patrolmen fell 20 feet into a volcanic fumarole cavity covered by snow and died, overcome by carbon dioxide and lack of oxygen. A patrolman attempting to rescue them died as well. In all, Mammoth Mountain Hospital treated 20 employees involved in the rescue attempt, checking for adverse affects due to oxygen deficiency.

A citation is issued when there is probability that death or serious physical harm resulted from a violation of Cal/OSHA requirements.
Mammoth Mountain recieved a $36,000 citation for two violations of Cal/OSHA regulations addressing training issues.

The Cal/OSHA-investigation allegedly revealed Mammoth Mountain failed to properly identify and evaluate the hazards for working near the area’s volcanic fumaroles, known to have high levels of carbon dioxide gas. Not having proper warning signs to indicate a potentially hazardous situation at the location of the fumarole prompted a third citation.

In addition, the ski and snowboard hotspot for Californians caught general citations for not conducting proper internal atmosphere testing, not using proper engineering controls and not providing proper respirators for escape or rescue.

California law provides that a company may appeal Cal/OSHA citations and penalties within 15 working days to their Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board in Sacramento.

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