The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Wolf Creek Ski Area $17,000, alleging “serious” workplace violations following an investigation into the death of the area’s ski patrol director in an avalanche in November.
After several months of investigation into the death of longtime patrol director Scott Kay, the administration found three alleged violations. The administration fined the area $7,000 for the lack of specific training and protocols for avalanche-control work as well as a violation of state law that required Kay to work with another employee when using explosives to mitigate avalanches. Another citation levied a $5,000 fine because Kay was not wearing a helmet when he was swept away and buried while conducting lone in-bounds avalanche mitigation Nov. 22 before the area opened. The penalties also included a $5,000 fine against the ski area for the lack of handrails on metal stairways in the area’s summit house.
The OSHA report describes the accident as: “The employee, working alone, set off an explosive charge and then skied across the face of the slope instead of skiing across the top of the slope.”
The OSHA area director in Englewood, said state statute requires a minimum of two workers and federal laws governing workers’ personal protection equipment support the use of helmets by patrollers doing avalanche mitigation. OSHA found that this was not an isolated incident, and that violations of safety requirements had occurred previously.
In 2007, OSHA fined Crested Butte ski area $67,500 after alleging workplace violations following the January 2007 death of a grooming machine driver. Earlier, an OSHA investigation into the November 2002 death of a Keystone employee who drowned in a below-ground vault used for snowmaking led to a $128,250 fine.