A new report by Oregon Public Broadcasting indicates that the Prineville Mill, whose roof collapsed on a snowy morning last November, was warned of the possible danger well in advance. According to OPB the Mill’s own employees raised the alarm to no avail.
Astonishingly, no one was hurt when the roof at Woodgrain Millwork collapsed. That does not, however, change the face that this incident is an almost textbook example of an Oregon industrial accident and a reminder of why our court system is crucial in holding companies to account where their employees safety is concerned.
Plant employees who spoke with OPB “paint a picture of an environment at Woodgrain where building maintenance was lax and the roof leaked for years. The former Woodgrain workers described what they saw as a number of unsafe conditions and potential safety hazards at the mill, even before the roof collapsed.”
OPB also quotes company officials, who take the position that “they could not have predicted that the large section of roof would fall to the ground so suddenly and dramatically.” Unfortunately, this misses the point. From a legal perspective the question is not whether or not company officials could or should have anticipated a collapse at any particular time. It is whether they fulfilled their on-going duty to maintain a safe work facility, to perform adequate maintenance and to provide appropriate safety training and gear to their employees and any contractors working in their facility. OPB notes that investigators from the state Occupational Safety and Health administration arrived at the mill “three days after the roof collapse… in response to an anonymous complaint.” OPB notes that “Oregon OSHA confirmed with the company that the roof had a history of leaks” but did not, in the end, issue a citation to Woodgrain.
As an Oregon Industrial Accident Lawyer I plan to watch this case closely over the coming weeks and months. If the OPB reports are accurate it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Woodgrain Millwork was a company that placed profits ahead of worker safety. Had any of the workers been injured there would be a potential case against the company for lost wages in addition to pain and suffering. The broader issue is that OSHA and other government agencies, along with our court system, need to work to ensure that companies adhere to their responsibilities to workers. Health and safety have to come first.
Oregon Public Broadcasting: Workers Alerted Company to Problems With Prineville Mill Roof Before Collapse