A South Central Washington irrigation district is facing steep fines for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards for the second time this year.
The Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District is tasked with delivering irrigation water to landowners in Yakima and Benton counties. The district faces $168,000 in penalties for reportedly unsafe trenching practices. These are the same violations cited by the Department of Labor & Industries in the district in October.
At an irrigation district job site in December, 2022, an L&I inspector reportedly photographed workers inside a ditch deeper than 4 feet without a safe way to get out and unprotected box or shield to prevent a cave. There is also reported to be an excavated pile of soil near the edge of the canal, adding weight and increasing the risk of collapse.
The employer removed the workers from the trench but refused to give inspectors full access to the site, according to L&I, which returned with a warrant the next day, opened an inspection, and interviewed workers who were in the trench. on the day observed by the inspector. the dangers.
Safety rules intended to prevent caving in Washington include: Any trench 4 feet or deeper must have protection such as braced, sloped, or benched walls; and workers must have an easy way to enter and exit the trench safely, such as a ramp or ladder.
In September 2022, the district was issued four serious citations for the same type of trenching violations, and the district was required to provide training for its workers in trenching safety.
In this most recent case, L&I cited the district with four willful serious violations. A willful violation is cited when a business owner or contractor intentionally disregards a hazard or rule. As a result of the implementation of the L&I, the irrigation district is now considered to be in serious violation and subject to greater scrutiny. This is the latest citation.
The penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers who are seriously injured and the families of those who died on the job.
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