State reduces penalty for Lake Stevens safety violations

On appeal, Labor and Industries reduced a $19,800 penalty regarding public works employee safety by $3,600.

LAKE STEVENS — State labor officials reduced $19,800 in penalties against the city of Lake Stevens for workplace safety violations.

An appeal led the state to decrease the amount by $3,600 last week.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Labor and Industries alleged 20 violations by the city’s public works department, alleging that employees worked in confined storm vaults without a permit or adequate training and cleaned up parks without being trained about health risks, among dozens of other issues.

Of those violations, 13 were deemed “serious,” where work conditions put employees at risk of death or serious harm, according to state standards.

The city appealed 10 of the serious violations.

L&I heard the city’s appeal in late August and modified three decisions on Oct. 14. The city now must pay $16,200.

Lake Stevens can appeal again.

Mayor Brett Gailey said city officials will meet next week to discuss next steps. The mayor said one of his top priorities for the city is earning accreditation from the American Public Works Association.

In its Oct. 14 decision, L&I grouped two violations related to confined-space entry under a single $1,800 penalty “because they involve similar or related hazards.”

Confined spaces include storm vaults, manholes, tunnels, ducts or silos, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Over 1,000 workers died from occupational injuries involving a confined space from 2011 to 2018, the violation decision states.

Public works crews described entry into a stormwater basin in January 2021, according to the L&I inspector’s notes. An employee told the inspector the last time public works crews were trained in confined-space entry was 2016.

“We winged it,” the employee reported.

State guidelines allow similar violations to be lumped together, because if an employer corrects one violation they are likely to also correct those that are related, said L&I spokesperson Dina Lorraine in an email.

L&I also downgraded a serious violation about the city’s lack of an adequate accident prevention plan.

All other cited violations were affirmed, the decision says.

Corrective action is due by Nov. 10.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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