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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

Sawmill Death Leads to Filing and Resolution of Case for Unlawful Worker Safety Practices

Santa Rosa, CA  –  April 25, 2019  –  District Attorney Jill Ravitch has announced that defendant Pacific States Industries dba Redwood Empire Sawmill has resolved a civil case against it for unlawful business practices regarding worker safety laws as a result of the death of Raul Lule at the mill on April 10, 2013.

District Attorney Ravitch stated, “Sonoma County businesses must put safety first, before profits. To do otherwise is to maintain unlawful business practices with an unfair advantage over businesses that are following worker safety laws.”

The District Attorney filed an unlawful business practices case in 2016 following a 2014 Cal-OSHA’s referral of a case for the prosecution following the death of Mr. Lule, a millwright at the McCray Road sawmill on April 10, 2013. Cal-OSHA’s report indicated that Mr. Lule died in a bark conveyor that the employees regularly walked on while they were unjamming it. The District Attorney’ Office conducted an investigation and discovered a culture of production over safety at the mill and that the sawmill and its two other facilities in Sonoma County did not have written procedures for employees to use to work on, unjam or clean machinery and equipment, including the bark conveyor where Mr. Lule died. Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations requires that businesses have written, procedural steps for employees who work on (unjam, service or repair) machinery and equipment. Employees are required to shut off all machinery and equipment for safety purposes under California law before they service, or otherwise work on it if it could move and cause injury.

The parties entered into a stipulation today that requires that Pacific States implement enhanced safety processes and procedures, including maintaining written procedures for employees use, at its three Sonoma County locations. As part of the resolution, Pacific States agreed to pay civil penalties, restitution and costs in the amount of $375,000 and Mr. Lule’s wife and children will share restitution in the amount of $177,500. The District Attorney’s Office will recover investigative costs ($20,000) and penalties ($177,500) in the amount of $197,500.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Ann Gallagher White, with assistance from Deputy District Attorneys Caroline Fowler and Emily Malfatti, along with District Attorney Investigator Mark Azzouni, and District Attorney Investigator, Lisa Chapman (retired). Cal-OSHA’s Mark Harrington (deceased) investigated the case, with assistance from Mike Byrne of the BOI, District Manager Kathy Garner and OSHA’s Marvin Moran.

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Joan Croft
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Office of the District Attorney
County of Sonoma
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