OSHA cites Keystone in Bornstein death | SummitDaily.com

OSHA cites Keystone in Bornstein death

Keystone – Keystone Resort is facing citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for two alleged willful violations and one alleged serious violation of the agency’s regulations in connection with the November death of a Keystone snowmaking employee.

The citations, which carry a total penalty of $128,250, stem from the resort’s “failure to protect employees working in confined spaces,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“As allowed by OSHA regulations, Keystone Resort plans to question the details and extent of the citations with OSHA officials within the next several weeks,” Keystone Chief Operating Officer Roger McCarthy said in a statement released Thursday. “Nonetheless, no matter what disagreements we may have with those findings, all of these discussions with the government pale in significance to the tragic accident that cost the life of Ben Bornstein.”

Bornstein, 28, drowned on Nov. 25 when the snowmaking shelter in which he was working filled with water. Coworkers, who were working nearby at the time, found Bornstein tangled in pipes and valves.

Keystone spokesman Mike Lee said the company had been working closely with OSHA officials and knew as early as the beginning of the week the citations were imminent.

Although both types of violation are significant, the alleged willful violations will comprise the vast bulk of the fine at $126,000.

OSHA categorizes a violation as serious when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, involving a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The citations come after months of investigation and allege Keystone failed to post required warning signs, to provide sufficient confined space training for employees, to provide notification of and access to confined spaces to rescue personnel for planning and training, and to provide an ingress/egress ladder for the confined space.

“It’s a significant situation, obviously,” said Herb Gibson, area director for OSHA. “A tragic fatality occurred.”

Nevertheless, as with many of its rulings, the administration intended to send a larger message.

“Really what we’re looking for is for employers to evaluate their confined spaces at their workplaces and ensure that tragic incidences do not occur by establishing an effective

confined-space program,” said Gibson.

“Safety standards for confined spaces are designed to prevent a tragedy such as this, but they must be carefully followed to be effective,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said in a statement Thursday. “Employees must be aware of the hazardous conditions. They and potential rescuers must be trained to deal with them.”

Response to the citations from Bornstein’s friends was subdued.

“No amount of money can bring back a person, let alone Ben Bornstein,” said Jeanie Ringelberg, director of the Summit Prevention Alliance where Bornstein was an Americorps Promise Fellow. “Obviously, I hope (Keystone) would take the violation seriously, and if they haven’t already amended their workplace safety operations, they will now.”

Gibson said the resort had notified him that since the accident it had been reviewing its policies and working toward improving worker safety.

“They’ve hired consultants and have made significant improvements to the confined-space program at the facility,” said Gibson. “At least that’s what they’ve told me.”

“Since the day of this tragedy, we have been reviewing all of our policies and procedures with regard to workplace safety so as to prevent such an accident from happening in the future,” McCarthy said in his statement. “The safety of our employees and guests is of paramount importance, and as such, we have and will continue to enhance existing programs and develop new initiatives concerning workplace safety and injury prevention.”

Bornstein’s family members were unavailable for comment.

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at aleonard@summitdaily.com.

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