Company Criminally Charged in Workplace Fatality

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By Paul Shukovsky

June 14 — Prosecutors charged a Seattle-area landscape construction materials company with a crime June 10 for alleged willful violations of workplace safety regulations stemming from an incident in which an employee was fatally mangled inside a bark blower truck (Washington v. Pacific Topsoils Inc., Wash. Super. Ct., No. 16-1-02544-3, 6/10/16).

Bradley Hogue, 19, was on his second day of work for Pacific Topsoils Inc. of Everett, Wash. in July 2014 when his body was found entangled in the auger of the truck, according to a probable-cause certification filed by the King County prosecutors office. The company faces a single count of Violation of Labor Safety Regulation with Death Resulting, a gross misdemeanor, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott A. Peterson told Bloomberg BNA June 13 in a telephone interview.

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries referred the case to the prosecutor's office in what department spokeswoman Elaine Fischer described as a “rare occurrence” in a June 13 e-mail to Bloomberg BNA. “In the past 20 years, we have referred a handful or so of cases to county prosecutors but none has ever been prosecuted until now. We hope this action by the prosecutor serves as a deterrent so that nothing like this ever happens again.”

Five months after the accident, the department cited Pacific Topsoils with 17 workplace safety violations, three of them classified as willful, including a failure to ensure that energy control procedures were used when employees worked in the hoppers of the bark blower delivery trucks.

$199,000 Fine Assessed

The company appealed the $199,000 fine, Pacific Topsoils General Manager Tom Foster told Bloomberg BNA June 14 in an e-mail.

In a statement, Foster said: “Since July 7, 2014, the day of the accident, we have worked to ensure something like this never happens again. We have worked closely with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and outside safety consultants to improve practices, safety, training and equipment. We have written procedures and standardized training on them for all employees. The lessons learned from our experience are now being applied throughout our industry to ensure a high level of worker safety.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at