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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver construction company fined for teenager’s injuries that resulted in amputation of his legs

16-year-old hurt while using trencher at worksite in La Center

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: January 23, 2024, 7:31pm

Labor officials have fined a Vancouver construction company more than $150,000 after a 16-year-old boy’s legs were amputated following an injury last summer while working on a site in La Center.

The boy, while working for Rotschy LLC, was using a walk-behind trencher to dig a channel for fence posts when he was dragged under the blade. His injuries were so severe that both of his legs were eventually amputated, according to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Rotschy declined to comment Tuesday on the incident and fine.

The state agency cited Rotschy in December, and the company has appealed, according to a news release from the labor department. The agency said it fined Rotschy the maximum penalty available and determined its violations were serious and willful.

The boy was participating in a work-based learning program with the company, which allowed him to earn classroom credit while gaining job experience. Although the company had a student learner exemption to allow minors to work, the exemption did not allow for minors to use a walk-behind trencher, according to the labor department. The agency also said the boy was using the equipment without supervision or taking adequate safety measures.

The labor department ordered the company to immediately stop work and suspended its student learner exemption.

“This tragedy should never have happened, and this young man’s life will never be the same,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for the department’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Employers with young workers should look after our children as they would their own. When they fail to keep a young worker safe, it’s a violation of the community’s trust.”

The labor department’s Youth Employment Safety Unit is continuing to investigate Rotschy, which could lead to additional fines and restrictions on the company’s ability to employ minor workers, the news release states.

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