Washington Company Fined for Safety Violations Contributing to Workplace Fatality

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has fined NW Forest Fibre Products of Concrete, Wash., $76,960 for workplace safety violations that allegedly contributed to the death of one of its employees last September.

Keith Cain, 28, of Sedro-Woolley, Wash., died last Sept. 15 when the rag he was using to wipe water off a debarker drum got caught between two spinning tires and dragged him into the machine, which strips bark from tree limbs. A Department of Labor and Industries investigation concluded that Cain's employer allegedly failed to have proper lockout/tagout protections in place and to protect its workers from a variety of hazardous machinery and equipment. Lockout/tagout protections ensure that a piece of machinery cannot be operated while it is being cleaned or repaired.

On March 15, the agency cited NW Forest Fibre for several alleged workplace safety violations, some of which were deemed willful or repeat violations. In addition to paying the fine, the company must correct all of the safety violations investigators found. The company has 15 days from the date it received the citation to appeal the findings.

The investigation found that a storm had blown off the roof that covered the debarker, allowing it to get wet and not operate efficiently. Rather than turn the equipment off and dry it, Cain attempted to clean the drum while it was operating, according to the Department of Labor and Industries. The agency determined that the company had not provided proper safety training and did not have adequate procedures in place to protect workers.

The department's WISHA (Washington State Industrial Safety and Health Act) program investigates workplace injuries that are serious or result in death. It conducts about 7,000 workplace inspections each year.

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