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Goodwill fine in employee death lowered from $50,000 to $13,300 on appeal

Post by News Tribune Staff on April 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm with No Comments »
April 24, 2009 3:00 pm

State labor regulators and Tacoma Goodwill Industries have settled the company’s appeal of a nearly $50,000 fine stemming from the death of a developmentally disabled worker just over a year ago.

Goodwill will now have to pay $13,300 for three violations related to the implementation of its accident prevention program, record keeping and the safety features of its box tipping machines, the nonprofit announced Friday. The company was initially cited with nine deficiencies.

On April 15 last year, Nick Miller (pictured here), a 27-year-old with cognitive abilities of a 10-year-old in some areas, was crushed under a hydraulic tipper on Goodwill’s loading dock. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear.

Immediately after the accident, Goodwill undertook voluntary safety improvements, including placing lock-out devices on its tipper machines.

"There was a lot of very intense discussion," Department of Labor & Industries spokeswoman Elaine Fischer said. "In the end we did make some adjustments."

Goodwill CEO Terry A. Hayes said a statement that the company maintains its commitment to “exceed the spirit and intent of state safety standards.”

At the time, Hayes had objected to many of the penalties saying the "facts don’t fit the findings." She noted Goodwill had collaborated with the Department of Labor & Industries on previous violations and followed their recommendations in areas they were subsequently accused of violating.

The agency’s case file on the death, which ran more than 1,500 pages, showed Goodwill bosses were confused about Miller’s duties, The News Tribune reported in December. Some told L&I Miller was never authorized to operate the tipper while others, backed up by training records, said it was part of his regular duties.

The attorney for Miller’s family could not be reached Friday afternoon.

"We’ve accomplished our goal of a safer workplace with this settlement," Steve Cant, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a joint press statement with Goodwill on Friday.

Miller’s loss was still deeply felt by employees of the company, Hayes said.

Industrial accidents
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