Fatal falls continue to plague Snohomish County work sites

LYNNWOOD — Two more workers have lost their lives after falls in Snohomish County.

Al Speed, 61, died Wednesday from injuries sustained in an earlier fall while working for the Snohomish County Public Utility District, officials have confirmed.

In addition, a Bothell construction company now is facing a steep fine for alleged safety violations in connection with a worker’s death earlier this year.

James Geil, 53, of Kent, fell to his death Feb. 29 from the roof of a house in Lynnwood. He tumbled about 18 feet and had no fall protection system, records show.

The state Department of Labor and Industries conducted an investigation and found 10 alleged violations by the company, seven of which were deemed serious violations.

Terry Walker Construction Inc. has until June 6 to appeal the $20,500 fine. The alleged violations included not providing adequate fall protection and not requiring hard hats, though the company says it had hard hats on site.

The company owns fall-protection gear and crews had talked about fall safety earlier that day, owner Terry Walker said Thursday.

Geil was an independent contractor. However, the state considers him an employee under the circumstances, Walker said. The two had worked together on and off for 15 years.

“He was a friend of mine,” Walker said. “He was more than just a worker.”

After a state inspection that followed Geil’s death, nearly every violation was corrected within a day, Walker said. The fatal fall was his company’s first serious workplace injury in 26 years of running a small business, he said.

Falls are the leading cause of work-related deaths in Snohomish County and the state. Three construction workers have died from falls in the state so far this year, said Elaine Fischer, an L&I spokeswoman.

Falls occur in other industries too. On Sunday, Speed fell while working at the PUD warehouse, in a job he’d held for 37 years, agency spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.

The PUD and the state are investigating.

“The only thing we know is that he fell off of an upper level onto the ground floor,” Neroutsos said.

Speed was taken to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. He died on Wednesday, hospital officials said.

Speed’s co-workers are thinking of his family, Neroutsos said.

“It really shakes the organization when something like this happens. It is a tough week for everybody,” he said.

Reporter Scott North contributed to this story.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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