Local residents who were hired as spotters to inspect excavation at the Oso slide zone for personal belongings or human remains walked off the job after they say they were told to work in unsafe conditions. Dozens of those local workers are refusing to go back to the site until their concerns are addressed.
State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Spokesman Travis Phelps confirmed the walkout and said it is a setback for the SR 530 rebuilding project because someone needs to watch every scoop of dirt and debris that is removed.
The workers, who said they signed agreements not to talk with the media, said anonymously they were told to get to work and break sites by walking long distances next to heavy equipment and a steady flow of dump trucks clearing away the highway. They also said they were told to work in poor lighting, poor footing and even during violent weather like Sunday’s thunder and lightning storms.
WSDOT said all worker safety complaints are investigated immediately. Phelps said work stops immediately at that site until inspectors personally examine the area of concern. In this case, he said, inspectors found it to be safe.
Phelps said other trained state workers and some private archeologists are being used as spotters now and new spotters will be hired to replace those who walked.
The clearing of SR 530 is roughly halfway done but rebuilding the road could take much longer.
In the interim, drivers will still use the bypass road, which is only one way at a time and switches every half hour.