A fruit grower and processor from Yakima, Washington has been fined more than $ 150,000 by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries for violating COVID-19 workplace requirements designed to keep employees safe at work.
This week, L&I Evans Fruit Co. Inc. informed that it is being cited for two intentional serious offenses for failure to comply with COVID-19 mask in the workplace and social distance requirements. It is reportedly the third time in recent months that the company has been cited for COVID safety and health violations.
The violations are considered deliberate by L&I because the company reportedly knew employees had to wear masks and that the employer knowingly did not enforce it. Since the violations are considered intentional, the penalty is 10 times greater. The violations are considered serious because of the risk of serious illness or death from exposure to COVID-19.
L&I opened the last inspection on October 14, 2020 after receiving an anonymous complaint about several safety and health issues in the Cowiche workplace, including a lack of social distance.
While inspecting the fruit packaging warehouse in Evans, an L&I researcher reportedly observed numerous workers in various areas who were neither socially removed nor with physical barriers between them. There were also several workers in the warehouse and office who did not wear masks as required. The safety manager of Evans Fruit Co. has reportedly said he would not require an employee to wear a mask.
As a result, L&I issued an immediate restraint warrant and notice, requiring immediate compliance with COVID-19 safety and health rules. The company agreed within half an hour of receiving the notification.
According to the governor's proclamation, employees are required to wear masks and maintain a distance of 6 feet or place physical barriers to prevent the possible transmission of the coronavirus.
Evans Fruit Co. was fined $ 6,600 after two inspections of several fruit-packing sites last summer, where social distancing and masking violations were found. The company told L&I that the masks made fruit packers so hot they passed out.
In 2020, L&I inspected 422 farms and discovered 517 violations, of which 204 were serious. According to L&I, 60% of the violations were not following COVID-19 protocols.
Evans Fruit Co. has 15 business days to appeal the violations and the $ 156,000 fine. They have appealed the two previous quotes. Fines paid as a result of a quote go to the Workers Compensation Supplementary Pension Fund and help workers and families of those killed on the job.
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