Washington regulators fine Blue Bell-based wireless company QualTek after fatal fall

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Washington state regulators have fined wireless company Blue Bell $12,000 for safety violations following the death of a cell tower worker near Arlington last year.

Michael Vazquez was working on a Crown Castle cell tower on Dec. 4, 2021, when he fell about 140 feet (42.6 meters) to his death, fire officials said.

A 24-year-old Las Vegas man died of blunt force trauma, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner has determined. His death was ruled an accident, according to the Everett Herald.

Vasquez’s employer, QualTek Wireless, violated several safety regulations, investigators from the state Department of Labor and Industries found in May. All three violations are recognized as serious.

The first violation was failure to conduct a daily “structural hazard assessment” on the cell tower. In the citation, inspectors noted that this puts workers at “potentially serious risk.” The second violation was for a similar question. QualTek was fined $6,000 for the two.

The most recent violation, also for $6,000, was for failure to perform a daily inspection of the vertical lift system. This would ensure the safety of working on the tower.

“An authorized climber with less experience should have performed this duty up to the 140-foot level where the work was being done,” inspectors wrote in the citation. “This exposes employees to serious hazards that could result in disability or death.”

A spokesperson for QualTek did not respond to requests for comment. The company is attractive.

On its website, QualTek prides itself on safety in its workplaces.

“Our health and safety program complies with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, as well as our own exceptional standards,” the website says. “Our goal is to exceed best practices by eliminating or mitigating hazards that expose our personnel to injury and illness.”

Falls are consistently the leading cause of death for construction workers in Washington, said Tim Church, a spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industries. In 2021, 16 construction workers were killed in industrial accidents. Six of them were from falls.


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