The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued several citations totaling $15,120 in fines against an environmental consulting company whose employee was killed by a bear in the Teton Wilderness in September.
Idaho-based Nature’s Capital LLC conducts environmental surveys. Its employee, Adam Stewart, was conducting a survey under a U.S. Forest Service contract in the Teton Wilderness when he apparently encountered a bear and was mauled to death, according to reports.
Searchers found Stewart’s body Sept. 12, on the fifth day of searching in Cub Creek, just north of Togwotee Pass in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Preliminary investigations reveal he died of blunt force trauma, likely a bear bite. Wyoming OSHA became involved in the case because Stewart was on the job at the time of his death.
One cited violation notes that Nature’s Capital employees “were not adequately protected from contact with bears, by not providing and requiring the carrying of bear spray, not providing and requiring the wearing of noise making devices (such as bells), not requiring the employees to submit a trip itinerary, and not having and requiring check-in procedures to be followed while working in the Bridger Teton National Forest.”
For that alleged violation, Wyoming OSHA assessed a fine of $4,410.
Another alleged “serious” violation, with an assessed fine of $3,150, noted, “The employer did not adequately assess the workplace to determine if hazards were present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).”
The citations were issued on March 9. Wyoming OSHA told WyoFile that Nature’s Capital requested an informal conference, which was scheduled for today. “From that date [May 13], they will have 15 days to formally contest the citations,” Wyoming Workforce Development spokeswoman Hayley McKee told WyoFile via email.
WyoFile is awaiting a response from Nature’s Capital to a request for comment regarding the OSHA citations.
Stewart, a 31-year-old from Tennessee, was a veteran field hand, speed hiker and cyclist who had worked for Nature’s Capital for only about a month. He’d worried about working alone in remote wilderness locations, and expressed his concerns in an email to his employer — which WyoFile obtained from the family.
“Working alone increases risks and (the) possibility of death or lifelong disability…” Stewart’s email said. “…(H)alf-measures can have dire results working in remote areas with winter storms approaching and wildlife becoming more active.”
Stewart’s boss, Steven Rust, told WyoFile in an earlier interview that Stewart was cleared to travel solo. However, Rust challenged other statements contained in Stewart’s email.
“Obviously Adam worked alone in previous field seasons,” albeit for other companies and in different ecosystems, Rust said. “We have had other individuals work alone as well. … It’s not entirely desirable from my standpoint. I don’t think we would do that in the future.”
Wyoming OSHA citations to Nature’s Capital LLC: