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Ripley logging company cited in fatal February accident

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal investigators have cited a Ripley logging company following the February death of a worker at a timbering operation.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Best Logging for 14 alleged serious and four other-than-serious violations found at a work site at Rock Castle.

OSHA investigated after one of its employees, Jimmie Allen Westfall, was killed when a tree fell on him during logging operations at the site, officials said.

In a news release, OSHA said the serious violations were the company's failure to ensure employees wore leg protection while operating chain saws and performing logging operations, failure to ensure employees were within visual or audible contact with each other at all times, and failure to provide first-aid kits. Also, OSHA alleged the company did not properly train workers, properly fell trees, or consider the location and surrounding trees prior to logging.

Under OSHA rules, a serious violation occurs "when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."

"By many measures, logging is the most dangerous occupation in the United States and is considered a high-hazard industry by OSHA," said Prentice Cline, director of OSHA's area office in Charleston.

"In West Virginia alone, there have already been five fatalities this year, all involving improper felling of trees," Cline said. "Employers, such as Best Logging, that put employees' lives in danger by not complying with federal logging safety laws will continue to be held legally responsible."

Best Logging faces $39,000 in proposed penalties. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the Charleston area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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