One Year After L.A. Firefighter’s Fatal Training Accident, Department at Odds With State Safety Regulators

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It was supposed to be a routine training exercise: firefighters climbing a ladder to the roof of a six-story building in downtown Los Angeles, as though the structure were on fire.

On that June morning in 2017, firefighter Kelly Wong made it more than halfway up the ladder, leaning against the Barclay Hotel at a 73-degree angle. But then the 29-year-old lost his footing, falling from the ladder onto the fire truck below. He died from his injuries days two later.

Now, lawyers for the Los Angeles Fire Department are at odds with workplace safety regulators over their investigation into the incident, the first fatality during a department training exercise since 1985.

Officials with the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, sent the Fire Department a special order in December instructing it to establish and implement procedures for using aerial ladders safely. The department must ensure that workers maintain three points of contact with a ladder at all times — either two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, Cal/OSHA said in its order.

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