Portland skyline

Roseburg, Oregon

At the confluence of the South Umpqua and Deer Creek Rivers, Roseburg originally took the name of the latter. Within a generation, however, the village of Deer Creek became the city of Roseburg – named now in honor of one of the area’s early settlers – Aaron Rose – whose inn and tavern was a local fixture for much of the 19th century. Today, with a population of 21,100, it is the seat of Douglas County, and a key regional center for both industry and recreation in Southwest Oregon.

Roseburg’s location gives it a very different feel from Eugene, let alone Portland. It is a rural area whose economy is focused on agriculture and timber. Roseburg also lies at the heart of one of Oregon’s principle wine-growing regions, and wine tourism is a growing part of the region’s economy, along with fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

This fact was grimly illustrated over half a century ago. In 1959 a significant section of downtown Roseburg was destroyed when a delivery truck loaded with explosives blew up in the middle of the night. The truck belonged to a company that manufactured explosives and had been parked downtown overnight fully-loaded in spite of warnings that such vehicles should not be left unattended in built-up areas. To this day the people of Roseburg refer to the incident as simply “The Blast,” and it is easy to understand why. The destruction was immense: 14 people died, 125 were injured and buildings destroyed for eight blocks around the blast site. According to city records, “the explosion created a crater fifty-two feet in diameter and twelve feet deep.”

We can remember this tragedy today as an especially terrible example of an Oregon industrial accident, and as a reminder of the need for responsible corporate citizenship, particularly when doing business involves handling dangerous materials. Indeed, figures compiled by the state government indicate that in 2010 the categories of “Natural Resources & Mining” and “Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting” each recorded seven workplace fatalities. That means that these two categories alone accounted for approximately 30% of all workplace fatalities in Oregon that year, and indicates the seriousness with which these potentially dangerous jobs must be approached. According to the state Department of Consumer and Business Services, Natural Resources & Mining employs 40,000 Oregonians statewide while the Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting & Fishing category accounts for nearly as many – 38,300. They are, in other words, significant employers in our state despite being potentially dangerous industries.

Injuries can be a significant problem in these employment categories. State data indicate that agriculture alone experienced 5.9 work-related injuries or illnesses per 100 workers in 2010. This is even higher than the figure for construction work (4.5 per 100 employees) – a job most of us think of as inherently dangerous. The lesson to be learned from figures like these is that complacency on the part of employers can be a danger to their employees. Safety is important, but it is only through regular attention to it that workers can actually be kept safe.

It is important in such circumstances to understand Oregon’s laws regarding industrial accidents. Kaplan Law LLC at the KOIN Center (Suite #1111), 222 SW Columbia Street in Portland offers expert advice and assistance for people unsure of where to turn in the wake of a workplace injury that may meet the definition of an Oregon industrial accident. Responsibility for a farm or trucking accident or a propane explosion can extend to third parties if they fail to maintain goods in proper working order, conduct required safety inspections or sell faulty products.

Complex legal situations require professional legal help. Kaplan Law LLC is located in downtown Portland, 180 miles north of Roseburg. We are in Suite 1111 at the KOIN Center, 222 SW Columbia Street (located between SW 2nd and 3rd Aves). Arriving by car from the south, join I-405 and US-26 West as you approach downtown. Once on the 405, take Exit 1B onto SW 4th Avenue and travel north for eight blocks. Turn right on SW Columbia Street to reach the KOIN Center. We are just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, only two blocks from the beautiful Columbia River and SW Naito Parkway. Call (503) 226-3844 to schedule an appointment.