Company fined for accident
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:32 PM
FALL CITY _ A Wisconsin golf-course construction company has
been fined more than $17,000 by the state Department of Labor and
Industries after an investigation found the company violated several safety
procedures that contributed to the death of a worker in May.
Jose F. Galdamez was killed May 7 when the trench he was working
in collapsed at The Members Club at Aldarra golf course in Fall City,
98902 S.E. Duthie Hill Road. A native of Santa Ana, Calif., Galdamez, 53,
died from a "crushing force injury" to
his body, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office.
Officials said Galdamez died while trying to free his 21-year-old
son, Michael Galdamez, also of Santa Ana, from the ditch. After four hours,
rescue crews were able to free Michael Galdamez, who was airlifted
to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of fluid loss, respiratory
problems and a fractured left leg.
Bill Ripple, a spokesman for the Department of Labor and
Industries, said the agency's Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act
(WISHA) Services Division found seven "serious" violations while conducting
the investigation at the Fall City golf course that made accidental injury
or death likely. For those violations, agency officials fined Oliphant
Golf Construction Inc. of Madison, Wis., $17,480.
In a written statement, Oliphant Golf Construction President
Mike Oliphant called Galdamez's death a "tragic loss."
"Jose and Michael have always been considered assets to the
company," Oliphant said. "We are all saddened by this accident and miss
them. In our estimation, Jose was a safety-conscious individual, as he had
safely installed thousands of feet of pipe throughout the country for the
company. We hope that Michael can return to work for Oliphant Golf."
The investigation lasted from the day of the accident to Sept. 21.
Ripple said in its investigation, the agency tried to determine what contributed
to causing the accident.
"Essentially when there's an incident such as this, we go to right
before the incident happened and work backward," he said.
Ripple said all seven of the serious violations concern the
trench Galdamez and his son had been working in. A maximum of $7,000 can
be levied for each serious violation. The serious violations, as contained
within the Department of Labor and Industries "Citation and Notification of
Penalty" document, include:
Those working in the trench were not protected from cave-ins by
sloping, shoring or shielding the trench. Workers installing a drainage
pipe "were exposed to an unprotected excavation up to approximately 17
feet deep and were exposed to a collapse of failure-type hazard which
could most likely result in death by asphyxiation or crushing." Fine: $3,600.
Oliphant Golf Construction did not have "a competent person"
conduct daily inspections for possible evidence of cave-ins or other
hazards. Fine $3,600.
Workers weren't able to safely exit the trench during a possible
emergency or cave-in. There was only one exit, an earthen ramp located on
the south end of the 59-foot-long trench. Fine: $3,600.
Oliphant Golf Construction didn't ensure workers could
be promptly and safely removed from trenches prior to beginning work
on the trench. Fine $3,600.
Hard-hat rules were not enforced for workers, which could have
resulted in lacerations to workers' heads. Fine: $980.
Workers were exposed to soil or rock that could fall or roll into
the trench, which could cause cuts and contusions. Fine: $900.
The company's accident prevention program did not address
"hazards associated with trenches,
excavations, working around machinery, equipment operations, required
personal protection equipment, ladder safety, powered hand tool use and
operation, motor vehicle safety in regards to work near, or in the vicinity, or electrical
installations." It also did not address other items, including the location
of first-aid facilities, how to report unsafe working conditions and an
on-the-job review of how to complete the work in a safe manner. Fine: $1,200.
The Department of Labor and Industries investigation also found
two "general" violations. The agency stated Oliphant Golf Construction
did not provide weekly, walk-around safety inspections by one member
of management and an employee, and the company failed to ensure that
crew leaders, supervisors and others in charge had a valid first-aid
certificate. No fines were assessed for the two general violations.
In his statement, Oliphant said the company did not intentionally
mean to violate state regulations.
"The recently completed state of Washington Department of Labor
and Industries WISHA Services Division investigation concluded that
Oliphant Golf did not knowingly or willfully direct its employees to expose
themselves to unsafe conditions," he said. "Unfortunately, the trench was dug
in a manner that was not standard to Oliphant Golf.
"Oliphant Golf remains steadfast in its commitment to the health
and safety of all of its employees."
Ripple said Oliphant Golf Construction received the citation
notice Oct. 17, and the company has 15 working days from that date to
appeal the department's decision. Oliphant stated last Friday that the company
had not decided whether to appeal the fine.
If the company decides to appeal, it has two options. It could let the
Department of Labor and Industries reassume jurisdiction in the case, and
the department would assign a reassumption hearings officer.
The hearings officer could uphold, modify or repeal the violations.
The appeal could also go directly to the Board of Industrial
Insurance Appeals, and if a settlement is not reached, a judge would rule on
the violations. If that decision is appealed, the case would go before a
Superior Court judge.