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News / Business

L&I fines Waste Connections, contractor

Agency claims 23 safety violations; Penalties total $177K

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter
Published: January 28, 2015, 4:00pm

The state Department of Labor & Industries said Wednesday it has fined two Vancouver area companies a total of $177,600 for multiple safety violations at the West Vancouver Material Recovery Center.

Waste Connections Inc. of Washington-Clark County — which offers solid waste collection, transfer and recycling services — was cited for 23 serious violations and fined $100,000. Leadpoint Business Services — a staffing agency that provides contracted workers to Waste Connections — was cited for 22 serious safety violations and fined $77,600.

“Many of the violations centered around unsafe entry and work in confined spaces,” L&I said in a news release. Attempts by The Columbian to reach both companies Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

The companies have 15 working days to appeal the citations, L&I said.

The individual fine amounts levied against the two companies ranged from $2,400 to $7,000, public documents show. Under one serious violation carrying a $7,000 penalty, L&I alleges Waste Connections didn’t use control procedures to protect employees from “potentially hazardous energy.”

“Employees exposed to the types of hazards found in this inspection would likely receive serious injuries such as broken arms, legs, even death,” according to L&I’s citation.

Labor & Industries launched its investigation in July 2014 after a Leadpoint worker was hospitalized from injuries incurred while performing maintenance on a “screen sorter,” a conveyor system used to sort and separate recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, glass and aluminum.

The agency’s investigation found that workers regularly worked in and around moving machinery and equipment, such as moving discs, shafts, motors and hydraulics.

“Working in and around energized or hydraulic equipment requires ‘lock-out/tag-out,’ a safety procedure to ensure employees aren’t hurt by the unexpected startup of machinery during service and maintenance,” L&I said. “Both employers were cited for seven lock-out/tag-out violations.”

L&I also found that workers were entering various “permit-required confined spaces” daily with no controls in place for ensuring their safety. “Permit-required confined space hazards exist in the facility’s sort screens, conveyors, manholes, tanks, vaults and garbage trucks,” the agency said. “Both employers were cited for more than a dozen serious violations related to failure to implement safe work practices for entering a permit-required confined space.”

Both companies also were cited for another violation for not protecting workers from exposure to falls while working on unguarded, open-sided work surfaces up to 9 feet high.

Fines paid in response to citations go into the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, which helps workers and families of those who have died on the job, L&I said.

The West Vancouver Material Recovery Center, open to the public and the industrial and construction industries, is located at 6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road.

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Columbian Port & Economy Reporter