State probes worker death at Thompson Metal Fab

Inquiries into workplace fatalities take 3-6 months

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: March 19, 2013, 10:30 AM

 

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries is investigating Friday's workplace incident in which worker Michael Carpenter, 33, of Vancouver was killed at Thompson Metal Fab in Vancouver.

Vancouver firefighters were dispatched to the company's facilities at 3000 S.E. Hidden Way at 4:27 p.m. Friday. Carpenter had been crushed by a large piece of steel and died before firefighters and a heavy rescue team arrived, said firefighter-paramedic Kevin Stromberg. The Clark County Medical Examiner's Office has not reported the manner and cause of Carpenter's death.

When someone is killed on the job, the investigation typically takes three to six months, said Elaine Fischer, Labor & Industries spokeswoman. Safety compliance officers look at what happened, what the workplace safety rules are for the victim's job and how the company met the rules, she said.

Since 2005, Thompson has been cited for a few general and serious workplace safety violations.

  • 2008, Thompson was penalized $500 for an unguarded press brake.
  • 2010, an inspector observed an employee driving a boom lift on a public street while wearing a harness that was not attached to a fixed point on the lift, according to Labor & Industries documents. Falls from a boom lift can cause serious injury.
  • Also in 2010, the inspector saw an employee operating a forklift without wearing a seat belt.

The company was fined $1,250 for each violation, and corrected them during the inspections. The fines were later reduced on appeal.

Last year, 65 people died around the state in workplace incidents -- a historic low, Fischer said.

"That won't mean much to the people who lost someone," she said. "It's still too many people who get killed on the job."

Thompson Metal Fab officials said they are investigating but have no comment.

Reporter Aaron Corvin contributed to this story.