WA state fines construction companies $20,000 after convention center death

Washington state has fined two construction companies a combined $20,000 after a construction worker was…

Washington state has fined two construction companies a combined $20,000 after a construction worker was killed at the downtown Seattle convention center expansion. 

Bryan Phillips, 31, died in an accident at the site in September.

In citations issued last month, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries said “an employee” was operating an 11,000-pound scissor lift extended about 27 feet into the air. “As the employee maneuvered the lift, a wheel of the lift went over a hole that was fitted with a 3/4″ piece of plywood. The plywood collapsed causing the lift to tip and fall,” the citations say. L&I confirmed the citations resulted from its investigation opened after Phillips’ death.

According to L&I, two companies operating at the site did not ensure employees operating lifts kept a safe distance from the holes and did not ensure that the coverings could support the heavy equipment being used.

The state ordered Performance Contracting Inc., or PCI, to pay $13,000 and ordered Clark Construction Group to pay $7,000. L&I sets fines based on the severity of the hazard, the company’s safety record and the number of employees in the company, according to the agency.

In an emailed statement, Clark Construction Vice President Ben Eitan said that over the last several months the company has “instituted new measures to underpin our existing jobsite safety program, such as deepening conversations with all trade partners — from principals to crews, establishing a universal safety platform to enhance safety management and communications practices, initiating recurring safety walks with all project foremen, and providing counseling services to support the emotional wellbeing of our workforce.”

PCI did not respond to a request for comment. Neither company has appealed the findings so far, according to L&I. Phillips was an employee of PCI, according to L&I.

The citations were issued in February and obtained by The Seattle Times through a public records request.

In its investigation, the state found that PCI did not ensure that hole covers at the site could support twice the weight of equipment “that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.” Six holes at the site were covered by three-quarter-inch plywood that could not support the weight of an aerial lift, the state found. The company corrected that during an inspection, according to the state.

According to L&I, “at least four employees were exposed to tipping hazards while operating heavy machinery” at the site.

“The tipping or falling of heavy equipment exposes the operator and personnel in the area to crushing or falling hazards, resulting in permanent disability or death,” L&I wrote in the citation issued to PCI.

Clark Construction, “as the upper tier contractor,” did not fulfill its “non-delegable duty” to ensure the operator kept a safe distance from holes and to ensure that the hole covers could support the machinery, L&I wrote.