HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. — Portland-area music festival Pickathon and a subcontractor have been fined after an investigation by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) determined the two organizations failed to follow safety rules when a boom lift, a four-wheel vehicle with an extension and a basket, fell over and killed two workers.

The incident happened on Aug. 8, 2019 at Pendarvis Farm, off Southeast Hagen Road in Happy Valley, days after the annual Pickathon festival had ended. The two workers, Brandon Blackmore and Brad Swet, were dismantling event-related hardware and ropes attached to the trees. They were in the basket of the boom lift and 40 feet high when the lift tipped over and killed them, according to the OSHA investigation.

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Brad Swet and Brandon Blackmore
Brad Swet (left) and Brandon Blackmore.

Pickathon was fined $12,500 while the subcontractor, GuildWorks LLC, was fined $18,500. Both were cited, and fined $12,500 each, for a serious violation because two alarm devices on the boom lift were disabled, OHSA said. One of the devices would sound an alarm warning against operating the machine on uneven terrain. The lift boom was reportedly on an incline when it fell over. The other alarm would stop the upward motion of the basket if an employee became pinned between an overhead construction and the basket’s railing and controls.

GuildWorks was fined another $6,000 for failing to follow the boom lift manufacturer’s operating and maintenance instructions, which OSHA said included not raising the boom while on an uneven surface and not moving the machine while the boom was extended and while the machine was stationed on a sloped surface.

“It is an employer’s responsibility to make sure that safety rules are followed for the very purpose of protecting workers from such tragedies,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “This is a time to pause and remember that two people died, leaving behind family and friends. And it is a time to remind ourselves that this accident was entirely preventable.” 

Pickathon founder and director Zale Schoenborn released a statement on Thursday.

"The tragic loss that the families of Brad and Brandon, Pickathon, Guildworks, and the larger festival community suffered last year was absolutely heartbreaking and continues to shake us to our core. We have always focused on safety with the same passion that we bring to producing the festival experience, and in our twenty-one year history this was our first serious accident. In 2020, we are challenging ourselves to completely redesign and rethink the festival with safety even more at the forefront in an effort to create a whole new Pickathon experience that is closer to nature, closer to the ground, and closer to the audience than ever before."

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