This week, Washington state cited and fined Evans Fruit Co. of Yakima $156,000 for two “willful serious” violations of COVID-19 workplace safety requirements, the state Department of Labor and Industries said in a news release.
The company did not enforce mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements at its Cowiche packing house, according to L&I. During an inspection in October, the company’s safety manager said that he would not require workers to wear masks.
After the agency issued a notice of restraint, the company came into compliance within a half-hour of receiving the notice, the press release said. Penalties are based on how long a company remains out of compliance with health and safety rules.
Evans Fruit told Good Fruit Grower it plans to appeal.
In a separate investigation from last summer, Evans Fruit was also fined $6,600 for mask and social distancing violations at another packing house. The company appealed that citation.
According to L&I’s latest count, it found 517 workplace safety violations at agricultural businesses in 2020, about 60 percent of which were for COVID-19 protocols. In December, it levied one of the largest fines in state history, $2.1 million, against Gebbers Farms of Bridgeport after the deaths of two H-2A workers. The company has appealed.
“COVID-19 is a serious workplace hazard and we expect employers to treat it that way,” said Craig Blackwood, acting assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. “Mask and distancing requirements are not voluntary.”