Nov 13, 2020Since March, more than 20 farms in Washington cited for COVID-19 violations
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has conducted 384 agricultural workplace safety and health inspections so far this year to help make sure farmworkers are safe on the job.
One hundred thirty of those inspections of agricultural employers have found violations for various health and safety concerns, including noncompliance with state rules related to COVID-19. Numerous inspections are still underway, so that number is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
“Our country relies on agriculture workers to grow and harvest food for our tables. We’re doing everything possible to make sure they are safe on the job,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a news release.
Anne Soiza, L&I assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), said, “L&I performs more agriculture worker safety and health inspections and consultations than nearly any other state in the country. This year, we stepped up efforts in this essential industry due to this new serious hazard.”
Of the more than 20 agriculture businesses cited for serious violations of COVID-19 safety and health requirements so far this year, 10 involved temporary worker housing while the others were related to multiple issues, including social distancing.
The largest fines issued this year for agriculture coronavirus-related violations were at the following farms:
- King Fuji Ranch Inc. (Mattawa) – fined $13,500 for shelter group workers interacting with members of other shelter groups and not social distancing. The employer has 15 days to appeal.
- Gebbers Farms Operations LP (Bridgeport) – fined $13,200 for shelter group workers interacting with members of other shelter groups and no barriers in the kitchen/cooking areas. The employer has 15 days to appeal. An investigation involving fatalities has not yet been completed.
- Evans Fruit Company Inc. (Sunnyside, Cowiche and Tieton) – fined $6,600 following inspections in three locations that found employees were not wearing face masks, taking temperatures or social distancing. Evans is appealing the violations. An additional Evans inspection is still in progress.
- Agrilabor (Benton City) – fined $5,400 for violations including beds not placed 6 feet apart. Agrilabor has appealed.
- 7Point Holdings LLC, that operates as Northwest Cannabis Solutions (Elma), –fined $3,300 for employees not wearing masks or social distancing. The company has appealed.
A breakdown of L&I 2020 agriculture inspections and results is available on the L&I website: https://lni.wa.gov/agency/_docs/FY21106AgIndSHInspectionsInfographic.pdf
So far in 2020, L&I has conducted nearly 3,600 inspections and approximately 1,600 consultations.
Workplace safety and health consultation
Along with carrying out inspections proactively or as a result of complaints, L&I offers free consultations to help employers find and fix workplace safety and health issues. Employers who want assistance can request an L&I safety consultation online. It’s free and confidential.
Training and guidance
L&I has developed a template that employers can use to meet requirements to train employees about the coronavirus. It covers numerous topics, including symptoms, transmission, face coverings and worker rights. The training is available online in English and Spanish.
The nature of the outbreak changes daily so it’s important to have the most current information. L&I has a COVID-19 webpage, and there’s important information on the Department of Health and the state Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) sites.
Information is the best resource to keep workers and the public as safe as possible. L&I urges employers to stay informed and take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.