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Colorado’s Wolf Creek Fined $17K in OSHA Investigation

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Scott Kay lost his life last November while doing avalanche control work at the Wolf Creek Ski Area in Southwestern Colorado. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been investigating the incident over the months since, and has now released the results. Jason Blevins, a reporter for The Denver Post, brings us some details about the fines levied:

The administration fined the area $7,000 for the lack of specific training and protocols for avalanche-control work as well as a violation of state law that required Kay to work with another employee when using explosives to mitigate avalanches. Another citation levied a $5,000 fine because Kay was not wearing a helmet when he was swept away and buried while conducting lone in-bounds avalanche mitigation Nov. 22 before the area opened.

Quite an array of safety violations. Here’s how the accident occurred:

In a description of the accident, the OSHA report reads: ‘The employee, working alone, set off an explosive charge and then skied across the face of the slope instead of skiing across the top of the slope.’

Workplace accidents like these can often be prevented by simple safety measures combined with alertness on the part of the staff. It is sad that this one wasn’t.

Additionally, and not directly related to the accident, OSHA has proposed a $5,000 fine for a lack of standard handrails along metal stairways at Wolf Creek’s summit house.

So where do things go from here? Bob Berwyn, a writer for the Summit County Citizen’s Voice, fills us in:

The next step in the process is to schedule a conference about the alleged violations and proposed penalties. Instead of paying fines, the ski area and OSHA could agree on an abatement plan that would involve training and implementation of specific safety steps, for example a requirement that patrollers wear helmets while on-duty.

OSHA logo used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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