Construction company fined $156K after teenage worker’s double leg amputation

Dive Brief:

  • The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries fined a Vancouver, Washington, construction company the maximum penalty, $156,259, after a 16-year-old had to have both legs amputated from injuries sustained on the worksite, the department said in a news release issued Tuesday. 
  • The teenage boy was operating a walk-behind trencher when he was dragged under the blade, sustaining severe injuries that eventually led to a double leg amputation, according to the release. Rotschy Inc. allegedly allowed him to use the machine without supervision or adequate safety measures, the department alleged. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
  • “This tragedy should never have happened, and this young man’s life will never be the same,” Craig Blackwood, assistant director for the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. “Employers with young workers should look after our children as they would their own. When they fail to keep a young worker safe, it’s a violation of the community’s trust.”

Dive Insight:

Washington’s youth employment laws specify which duties are prohibited for workers under 18 years of age. While Rotschy had a student learner permit exemption that let minors do some work typically prohibited, operating the walk-behind trencher was not included, the department said. 

The teenager was working with the company as part of a work-based learning program allowing students to earn credit while gaining work experience. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries suspended Rotschy’s exemption after the incident and ordered the company to stop work, according to the release. 

The company was fined for allowing an employee to use equipment without proper training and experience, the department said. Rotschy could face additional fines and restrictions after further investigation by the department’s Youth Employment Safety Unit. 

The department’s safety and health division cited Rotschy in December, and the company appealed, according to the release.