Oregon OSHA Proposes Fining Ski Area over Worker Injuries

March 13, 2007

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division has proposed more than $15,000 in fines against ski operator Mt. Bachelor Inc., saying safety violations contributed to a chairlift-maintenance accident that injured four workers.

Mt. Bachelor disagrees with some of the findings and has appealed three of the five citations, said Carly Carmichael, marketing director for the ski area west of Bend.

On Oct. 20, the employees were doing work on a chairlift’s main cable, using a Caterpillar tractor to bring the main cable to tension. A clamp holding the cable failed, releasing it suddenly. The cable struck three workers and a fourth, working under the cable, was hit by debris.

The flailing cable most seriously injured 40-year-old Howard Dunlap, who suffered cracked ribs, two fractured vertebrae, a fractured right arm, a fractured left leg and a dislocated right shoulder, the report said.

Dunlap is still undergoing rehabilitation, the report said. The other injured workers have returned to the job.

Richard Gray, an Oregon OSHA investigator and author of the report, said “this accident was preventable if the established lift maintenance procedures by the manufacturer and the company had been followed.”

Carmichael said the Mt. Bachelor agrees with Oregon OSHA that clamp failure caused the accident, but said the ski area will contest the following allegations:

*That “supervisors on site directed and allowed employees to do a shortening splice of a lift line in an unsafe manner, resulting in serious injuries to employees.”

*That “the employer did not follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and their own procedures to rig lift lines for shortening.”

*That inspections of lift line rigging equipment were done “by employees who are not qualified, trained or knowledgeable in quality control requirements.”

“While the safety of Mt. Bachelor employees and guests is of paramount concern, it is Mt. Bachelor’s position that three of the citations are based upon assumptions which are not accurate,” Carmichael said in a written response. “Further, Mt. Bachelor Inc. believes none of the deficiencies described by OSHA in its report would have prevented the failure of the clamp.”

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