Willow Creek Companies cited, fine sought after worker death
By Dennis Webb
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Garfield County, CO
A Rifle company has been cited for an alleged safety violation and faces a possible $8,149 fine following a fatal accident at a pipeline construction site last October.
However, Willow Creek Companies is contesting the citation.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company with what’s categorized as a serious violation in connection with the death of Grand Junction resident Juan Manuel Tapia Tequida, 30, who the Garfield County Coroner’s Office said also went by the name of Efrain Cortez.
Tapia Tequida died on the scene of a pipeline construction site in the Grass Mesa Road area south of Rifle Oct. 25. The coroner said at the time that initial reports indicated the construction worker was killed when he inadvertently loosened a board that 60-foot-long pipes were resting on and the pipes rolled and trapped him beneath them as he and the pipes went into a trench.
OSHA’s summary of the accident found that he was moving toward a side boom’s hook to attach a choker sling when he tripped over skids and dislodged a skid that was chocking steel pipes. OSHA said he was killed by a steel natural gas pipe 12 inches in diameter and weighing 2,000 pounds.
OSHA says Willow Creek Companies violated a regulation requiring that materials stored in tiers must be stacked, blocked or otherwise stored to keep them from sliding, falling or collapsing.
OSHA spokesman Juan Rodriguez said Willow Creek is contesting the citation before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
“At this stage of the proceedings, it is not appropriate for us to comment,” he said.
Willow Creek did not reply to requests for comment.
The company’s website says it does pipeline construction, well pad fabrication, tank battery work, directional boring, right of way reclamation and other oil and gas work, and operates in six states.
OSHA’s website shows that Willow Creek paid $4,000 in fines following an informal settlement process with the agency after being cited in 2013 for three alleged violations following a Rifle-area trench site inspection that was conducted as a result of a complaint. OSHA initially had sought $8,034 in fines.
The settlement included a $2,000 fine for violating a rule requiring protection of workers from cave-ins during excavations. OSHA categorized that violation as serious.
Willow Creek also was fined $1,000 for violating a requirement to protect employees from excavated or other materials or equipment that could fall or roll into excavations. It was fined another $1,000 for failing to conduct daily inspections of excavations to look for hazards such as possible cave-in conditions or the potential for protective systems to fail.
Willow Creek was founded in October, 2005, with headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado. Willow Creek is primarily engaged in the construction, replacement and repair of natural gas pipelines, crude oil pipelines, storage facilities, and civil site work in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico and Texas.
The Willow Creek management team has decades of successful experience in its core business and has established a strong culture dedicated to quality workmanship, safe work practices, accurate scheduling, and cost control. Willow Creek employees possess the knowledge, skills, attitude, and ability to maintain the high company standards reflected in our product quality and strong employee loyalty.
Willow Creek is a Preferred Contractor of choice for many companies, a fact reflected in our above average growth and high respect within our industry. Continued innovation in our construction practices, including custom designed equipment for critical applications, provide a superior level of service, economy, and product quality for our customers. Willow Creek continues to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and practices to better serve the industry. Our equipment fleet is systematically upgraded every three years, ensuring that cost effective, safe and reliable equipment is deployed on our projects. In addition, every employee operator is properly trained, tested, certified, and supervised on the equipment they operate.