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Home / Insurance / Washington Farm fines $ 2 million in COVID-19 security breaches

Washington Farm fines $ 2 million in COVID-19 security breaches



An investigation into the COVID-19 deaths of two workers on a farm in Washington has found dozens of safety and health offenses and resulted in a $ 2 million fine, which the Washington Department of Labor & Industries classified as one of the largest workplace safety fines. in the history of the state.

Investigators claim that the operators of Gebbers Farm Operations LP in Brewster, Washington "made it very clear to investigators that they did not intend to follow the rules written about temporary farm housing and transportation," said L&I chief Joel Sack in a statement. was released Monday.

L & I's department for working environment initiated an investigation on 1

6 July after receiving anonymous calls from workers at Gebbers Farm. The first caller said that someone in the camp had died of COVID-19 and added that the workers who shared the same cabin with the deceased were not tested for the virus and then split into different cabins with other migrant workers, according to the statement. .

The other caller said he feared that hundreds of workers in his camp had COVID-19, including himself, and that he was worried he would die. He said the farm's owners did nothing to help the sick and just left them in their cottages to die, according to the statement.

During the inspection, investigators confirmed that a 37-year-old temporary worker from Mexico died on July 8; the death had not been reported to DOSH as required, as companies must report workplace-related deaths within eight hours. A second worker, a 63-year-old man from Jamaica, collapsed and died on July 31. The cause of death for both workers was COVID-19.

According to state emergency rules for temporary agricultural workers' housing, upper and lower bunk beds can only be used if a farm divides workers into group shelters called cohorts. These groups of up to 15 workers must live, work, eat, use shower and cooking facilities and travel separately from other workers.

Investigators confirmed that hundreds of workers slept in bunk beds and used both upper and lower bunk beds and were not instructed to remain in cohort groups. Gebbers also drove workers to the fields in groups significantly larger than allowed, which increased the potential exposure to the virus due to the length of each trip, according to the department's statement.

In total, the investigation found 24 serious intentional violations – 12 for unsafe sleeping arrangements and 12 for unsafe work transport. The farm was also cited for four other serious violations, including failing to report the death.

Gebbers has 15 days to appeal the violations and the penalty. The company could not be reached for comment.

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