News

Company fined for accident

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.

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