Sierra Pacific, one of the largest lumber producers in the United States, has been fined $112,000 for safety violations following the death of a worker. Last April, employee Andrew Ward, 41, fell to his death from an elevated platform onto the concrete below.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigated the death, fining and citing Sierra Pacific Industries for seven safety violations at its lumber mill in Aberdeen, Washington.

L&I found that a section of permanent yellow guardrail was removed from the 17-and-a-half-foot-high platform and replaced with yellow caution tape – allowing a crane to move around equipment. As Ward approached the edge of the platform to communicate with the crane operator, he fell.

L&I said the employer at Sierra Pacific was accountable – knowing that caution tape cannot be used in place of guardrails at high elevation. Sierra Pacific should have also provided employees with a protection system against falls, such as a harness, lanyard, and tie-off point.

“A death like this is especially tragic because it was completely preventable by using proper fall protection and following safe work practices,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Falls are the leading cause of worker deaths and immediate hospitalizations. Employers need to be vigilant about preventing falls.”

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