The death of diver in Washington State last summer while on the job has led to repercussions for one department.
State officials with The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) recently cited the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for 15 worker-safety violations as part of their investigation into a drowning fatality involving a DNR diver last summer. The citation represents a potential penalty of $172,900.
Deceased Diver Part of 4 Person Dive Team
The deceased diver, David Scheinost, 24, was part of a four-person dive team from the DNR Aquatic Resources Division that was collecting geoduck samples to test for paralytic shellfish poisoning from the Manzanita and Restoration Point geoduck harvest tracts off Bainbridge Island on July 24.
As the day unfolded, a pair of SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) divers had deployed on their third dive of the day when Scheinost came to the surface in distress, calling out that he couldn’t breathe. The others were unable to reach him before he went beneath the surface and was gone. His body was found three days later.
L&I Investigation Points Out Problems
The L&I investigation involving the dive-safety policies and practices at DNR discovered:
● 370 occurrences over a six-month period in which divers were deployed without carrying a reserve breathing-gas supply.
● DNR did not ensure a designated person was in charge at the dive location to supervise all aspects of the diving operation affecting the health and safety of the divers.
L&I Says ‘Willful’ Violations Took Place
As L&I concluded, these were “willful” violations, which means they were committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference to worker safety and health regulations.
“Commercial diving involves risks that unfortunately lead too often to tragedies like this incident,” stated Anne Soiza, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “These significant risk factors require advance planning, properly maintained equipment and strict adherence to procedures to ensure the protection of workers’ lives on each and every dive.”
Along with the pair of willful violations, L&I cited DNR for eight “serious” and five “general” violations for not complying with standard safe-diving practices and procedures, including failure to:
● Have effective accident prevention and training programs.
● Ensure that divers maintained continual visual contact with each other.
● Inspect and maintain equipment.
● Have a stand-by diver available while divers are in the water.
L&I is responsible for workplace safety and health and investigating workplace deaths for all private, state and local government worksites.
Provided With 15 Working Days to Appeal Citation.
As with any citation, penalty money paid is put in the workers compensation supplemental pension fund, assisting workers and loved ones of those who have died while working.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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