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Recently issued citations resulting from an employee being killed by a bear serve as a reminder that employers should keep in mind all possible workplace hazards.
Nature’s Capital, an environmental surveying company based in Boise, Idaho, and contracting with the U.S. Forest Service, was issued several citations and a $15,120 fine by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration (WYOSHA). Officials say the company failed to adequately protect employees from contact with bears, failed to assess the workplace for hazards—in this case, those at the Bridger-Teton National Forest—and failed to provide training to employees in the use of personal protective equipment and in first aid.
Adam Stewart, 31, died of blunt-force trauma from a suspected bear attack in September 2014 while on assignment doing vegetation survey work for Nature’s Capital.
The company was cited for $4,410, for not adequately protecting Stewart from contact with bears. Stewart was working alone when he was killed, and did not carry bear-deterrents or a firearm.
WYOSHA administrator John Ysebaert, SHRM-SCP, said Nature’s Capital should have provided bear spray and noisemakers to deter any bears, and also should have required a trip itinerary from Stewart as well as adherence to a check-in process. “Not implementing the industry-recognized practices to avoid bear contact” contributed to Stewart’s death, according to the citation.
Ysebaert said Stewart had e-mailed the company and his family while on assignment, expressing worry for his safety, but the company had not responded with better equipment or training. Stewart was still a new hire—brought on the month before—when the attack occurred.
Nature’s Capital was also cited $3,150, for failing to assess the workplace for hazards. WYOSHA determined that four grizzly and black bears were in the area where Stewart’s body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Teton Wilderness, a protected grizzly bear habitat.
The company was fined $4,410 for not providing training in the use of personal protective equipment and $3,150 for not training Stewart in first aid in the absence of a nearby hospital.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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