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October 22, 1997

Two central Washington growers cited for worker safety violations

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has cited two central Washington cherry growers and fined them more than $48,000 for violating worker safety and health rules during last season's harvest.

Under The Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), temporary labor camps provided by employers must meet minimum requirements related to shelter, cooking, sanitation, water and other health issues.

L&I inspectors said conditions at both camps were unhealthy, with workers living in cardboard boxes, under plastic tarps and in other conditions specifically prohibited by worker safety and health standards. Additionally, garbage containers were overflowing and portable toilets needed emptying and servicing. Food preparation and storage facilities were primitive or non-existent, inspectors said.

Temporary labor camps typically represent a difficult compliance challenge for L&I for several reasons. First, temporary camps are difficult to locate during the relatively short harvest season. And secondly, their transient nature often means that workers have moved on to another camp before compliance inspectors arrive on the scene.

One of the camps was discovered during an aerial surveillance sweep of central Washington cherry orchards.

The cited growers were W. Bradley Carlson Ltd., of Pasco, and KBN Corp., of Royal City. The inspections were initiated after compliance officers determined that the growers were providing on-site camping without a license from the state Department of Health. Camping is permitted under a DOH license if employers provide basic health facilities.

W. Bradley Carlson Ltd., of Pasco, was cited for 12 serious safety violations and fined a total of $30,160. The company also was cited for five serious health violations that carried an additional $2,880 in penalties.

Specifically, the company failed to:

  • Ensure that every shelter in the camp was constructed to provide protection against the elements. ($3,600)
  • Maintain portable toilets in a sanitary condition and as required by regulations. ($3,600)
  • Provide stoves and sanitary facilities for storing and preparing food. ($2,400)
  • Provide, service and maintain garbage facilities as required. ($1,600)
  • Ensure that workers had appropriate bathing, hand washing and laundry facilities, including hot water, as required. ($1,600)
  • Provide an adequate and convenient water supply for drinking, cooking, bathing and laundry purposes. ($1,600)
  • Train and instruct all workers on the hazards of harvesting cherries. The employer didn't have a written accident prevention plan. ($1,600)
  • Guard the power takeoff accessory on a tractor. ($1,360)
  • Guard the belt and pulley drive of a compressor. ($3,200)
  • Ensure that employees were transported appropriately between job sites. ($3,600)
  • Prevent forklift operators from engaging in unsafe driving. ($3,600)
  • Protect a liquid-propane tank from potential damage from vehicle traffic. ($2,400)

In addition, the company was cited and fined $2,880 for two serious health violations related to worker protection from the hazards of pesticides.

The Royal City-based KBN Corp. was cited a total of one willful, five serious and one general violations.

The willful violation was issued after compliance officers determined that the employer either knew or should have known that the violation was occurring and did nothing to remedy it. Specifically, the employer did not ensure that every shelter in the camp was constructed to provide protection against the elements as required under worker protection rules. Inspectors said more than 20 workers in the camp were living in tents, tarp-cover apple bins or out in the open under plastic tarps. ($8,000)

The serious violations included:

  • Failure to provide sanitary facilities for food storage and preparation, maintain the grounds and open areas around the camp in a clean and sanitary condition. ($1,200)
  • Failure to provide adequate and convenient water for drinking, cooking, bathing and laundry. ($2,700)
  • Failure to provide adequate toilet facilities are required. ($1,020)
  • Failure to provide laundry, hand washing and bathing facilities, hot and cold running water and clothes drying facilities. ($1,200)
  • Failing to take effective measures to prevent and control inspect and rodent infestations at the camp. ($1,020)
Both employers have 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal.

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For media information, contact: 
Bill Ripple, L&I, 360-902-5407, ripp235@lni.wa.gov

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