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News / Business / Clark County Business

Rotschy fined again in teen’s injury that resulted in double amputation

7 teens were using equipment not allowed under Washington law

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 19, 2024, 6:46pm

Labor officials issued an additional $51,800 in fines against a Vancouver construction company after a 16-year-old boy’s legs were amputated following an injury last summer while working on a site in La Center.

The teen worked for Rotschy LLC as part of a work-based learning program. He 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.

The company had a student learner exemption, but that exemption did not allow minors to use a walk-behind trencher, according to the labor department.

The labor department said the boy was using the equipment without supervision or taking proper safety measures.

“We asked L&I not to release this because it hurts the young employee who got hurt. We do not make our employees work later than necessary,” a representative from Rotschy said Tuesday afternoon. “We have never not given them meal breaks. We’ve taken measures now so that if they’re going back into this type of work, they will work with a mentor.”

These new citations — for violations of laws designed to protect minor workers — are in addition to the $156,259 the company was originally fined in December for the same incident. L&I issued the latest citation Feb. 22, and the company paid it March 12, according to a news release.

“There are some jobs that state law says minor workers just can’t do, for their own safety,” Bryan Templeton, manager of L&I’s employment standards program, said in the news release. “But the law can only prevent tragic injuries like this when they’re followed. Rotschy knew the rules, but still put seven different teenage workers in harm’s way nearly three dozen times.”

During its investigation, L&I found Rotschy allowed seven minors to operate earth-moving machines or heavy equipment, or work so closely to the machines they could be injured by them on 35 different occasions.

L&I said the company denied 11 minor workers meal breaks 45 times and worked eight young workers longer than state law allows during a school day more than 150 times.

This story has been updated with a comment from Rotschy.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.