On July 21, 2009 Thomas Marovich, 20, of Hayward California incurred fatal injuries when he fell while performing routine rappel proficiency skill training at the Backbone fire Helibase in Willow Creek, California. Wildfire Today covered it HERE, HERE, and HERE.
We have not seen an official accident report about the accident, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued violation notices to the U. S. Forest Service related to the incident.
The first one is a “Serious” violation that involves the procedures for the use of the rappel equipment. OSHA provided in the document four specific “abatement methods to correct these hazards”. They involve equipment such as the Bourdon snap hook, a Mallion Rapide Tri-Link, and the HR-2 rappel harness.
The second is a “Willful” violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA accuses the USFS of failing to provide requested information about the accident. In fact, the USFS stated in writing that they would not comply with OSHA’s request.
Here is an excerpt from the violation notice OSHA sent to the U. S. Forest Service in Eureka, California, on October 2, 2009, about the “Willful” violation:
OSHA apparently concludes that the only way the USFS could be in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and Executive Order No. 12196 is if the incident must be “kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy”, but then says it involves neither.
One has to wonder if the recent trend of prosecuting people involved in accidents led to the refusal of the USFS to release the information OSHA requested.