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Sawmill settles lawsuit after 2013 worker death in bark-stripping machine

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The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and a Cloverdale sawmill have settled an unlawful business practices civil suit filed after a worker died at the sawmill in 2013.

Raul Lule, 43, a millwright, died on April 10, 2013 in a bark conveyor that employees regularly walked on while they un-jam it, the District Attorney’s Office said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health referred the case to the District Attorney’s Office in 2014, and the District Attorney’s Office investigated the death and filed an unlawful business practices suit in 2016.

The District Attorney’s investigation of the death discovered a culture of production over safety at the mill. The sawmill and its two other facilities in Sonoma County did not have written procedures for employees to work on, un-jam or clean machinery and equipment that included the bark conveyor where Lule died, the District Attorney’s office said.

Employees are required to shut off all machinery and equipment for safety purposes before they service or work on them to avoid injury under Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.

Pacific States Industries, doing business as Redwood Empire Sawmill, and the District Attorney’s office Thursday entered a stipulation that requires Pacific States Industries to implement enhanced safety processes and procedures and maintain written procedures for employees use at its three Sonoma County locations.

Pacific States Industries agreed to pay civil penalties, restitution and costs in the amount of $375,000. Lule’s wife and children will share restitution of $177,500 and the District Attorney’s Office will recover $20,000 in legal costs and $177,500 in penalties.

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