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OSHA News Release – Region 10
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 10 News Release: #02-32
February 8, 2002
Contact: Michael Shimizu or Jeannine Lupton
OSHA Issues Notices To U.S. Forest Service For Safety Violations At Thirtymile Fire Near Winthrop, Wash.
SEATTLE - The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced today it has issued serious and willful notices to the U.S. Forest Service for alleged job safety violations which existed at the time of the Thirtymile Fire near Winthrop, Wash.
Richard Terrill, OSHA regional administrator in Seattle, said the job safety violations were identified as a result of its investigation of the Thirtymile Fire following the deaths of four USFS firefighters on July 10, 2001.
The notice for willful job safety violations stated that the USFS did not provide a place of employment that was free of recognized hazards that could cause serious harm or death from burns, smoke inhalation and fire related causes. Specifically, OSHA noted that all of the 10 Standard Fire Orders and 10 of the 18 Watch Out Situations listed in the National Wildfire Coordinating Groups's Fireline Handbook were violated. OSHA also cited the USFS for failing to conduct inspections of its firefighting operations.
The notice for serious job safety violations noted the following: work-rest cycles developed by the Forest Service were not followed, an incident commander for all fire stages was not clearly assigned, and fire shelter deployment procedures were not developed for firefighters whose escape routes were compromised. OSHA also noted the lack of safety and health job performance evaluation criteria on current performance standards for USFS supervisors and managers.
According to Terrill, many of OSHA's findings are consistent with those the USFS identified in its own internal investigation of the fire. "Wildland fire fighting will always have its dangers," Terrill said, "but Forest Service officials have expressed their willingness to implement improvements that can reduce the risks. OSHA will assist in that effort where possible."
Editor's Note: A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
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