Ski re­sort fined in worker death

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARY NOTICES - By Joseph Serna joseph.serna@la­times.com Twit­ter: @JosephSerna

Cal­i­for­nia’s worker safety agency has fined Squaw Val­ley Ski Hold­ings for an ac­ci­dent at the Squaw Val­ley re­sort last year in which a ski pa­troller work­ing on avalanche con­trol oper­a­tions was killed.

Cal/OSHA cited two “se­ri­ous” vi­o­la­tions in the Jan. 24 death of 42-year-old Joe Zuiches.

Zuiches died about 8:35 a.m. at the top of the Gold Coast Ridge af­ter ex­plod­ing a hand charge con­tain­ing am­mo­nium ni­trate, Squaw Val­ley of­fi­cials said at the time of the in­ci­dent.

In its ci­ta­tions, Cal/ OSHA de­scribed the charge as weigh­ing 1.8 pounds with a cap and fuse with a 90-sec­ond burn rate that ex­ploded near Zuiches’ torso.

The re­sort had failed to im­ple­ment a safety pro­ce­dure as­so­ci­ated with hang cord en­tan­gle­ments dur­ing hang cord blast­ing oper­a­tions, Cal/OSHA said. The penalty for the vi­o­la­tion was $11,250.

The sec­ond se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion was that the avalanche blast­ing crew failed to en­sure all mem­bers main­tained vis­ual con­tact and aware­ness of the lo­ca­tion of all work­ers dur­ing avalanche con­trol ac­tiv­i­ties, Cal/OSHA said. The penalty was $9,000.

Ac­cord­ing to the ci­ta­tions, Zuiches was part of a four-per­son team that was op­er­at­ing in two pairs do­ing avalanche blast­ing oper­a­tions on Gold Coast Ridge.

Zuiches told his part­ner to go ahead and meet the other team while he per­formed the blast, the re­port said. Zuiches’ col­league met up with the other mem­bers and then heard a cou­ple of ex­plo­sions. When the group ra­dioed to Zuiches they re­ceived no an­swer. Af­ter an­other failed at­tempt to reach him, the em­ploy­ees went to his last known lo­ca­tion and found his body, the re­port said.

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