Washington Construction Company fined after worker died in Columbia River Bridge fall


David Rasbach / The Bellingham Herald

A Bellingham construction company faces more than a quarter million dollars in fines from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries after a worker died in 2021 from a bridge on the Columbia River near Vantage.

Labor and Industries announced it was fining Boss Construction nearly $284,000 for failing to ensure protective measures were in place to prevent workers from falling off the Beverly Railroad Bridge, according to a statement. press release of Thursday 27 January.

Gabriel Zelaya, 39, plunged 70 feet to his death Aug. 3, 2021, while working to restore the historic bridge, Kittitas County officials said at the time.

“Zelaya was employed by a private contractor working on the new concrete decking for the historic Beverly Railroad Bridge, which will connect portions of the Palouse-to-Cascades Trail on either side of the Columbia River,” county officials said in a statement. Press.

Labor and Industries cited Boss Construction with two ‘gross and willful serious’ violations after state inspectors determined the company did not ensure workers were using fall protection on the day of the death. Zelaya or several other days, according to Thursday’s statement.

“Managers and a foreman were working side by side with the workers – none of them were wearing fall protection,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director of labor and industries for the Division of Safety and Health. at work, in the release. “This indicates to us that the employer knowingly allowed employees to work on the bridge without using the required safety equipment.”

Interviews with employees revealed a lack of fall protection during the Beverly Railroad Bridge project and revealed a lack of safety enforcement prior to the fatal fall, according to Thursday’s statement.

Inspectors discovered that a catenary line, which is a horizontal line anchored at each end that workers can attach themselves to for safety, was only installed on one side of the bridge deck, the official said. release, which leaves about 200 feet on each side of the deck. the workers had no line to tie themselves to while walking on the bridge. The other side of the bridge had no catenary, leaving it completely unattended for the entire duration.

Additionally, the guardrails had been removed months before the fatal incident, the statement said.

Boss was also cited for not having a lifeboat immediately available and for not having ring buoys with ropes or life jackets, which are needed for work above water where there is no has no drop protection, the statement said.

Boss has until Feb. 8 to appeal the citation and fines, and any money paid will go into the Workers’ Compensation Supplementary Fund, which helps workers and families who have died on the job.

The Bellingham Herald has contacted Boss Construction for comment on the fines and what Labor and Industries reported.

The work was being done on the bridge under a contract with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, which was also fined in a separate incident for having an employee on the bridge without fall protection, according to the press release.


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