Joint Washington state lab brings food safety, hazardous chemical testing, other significant public safety functions into 21st century

October 28, 2021

TUMWATER — A new state laboratory and training center under construction soon in Tumwater will provide a state-of-the-art facility for food safety work, hazardous chemical testing, workplace safety investigations, and more.

The Washington state departments of Agriculture (WSDA) and Labor & Industries (L&I) will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new lab at noon Monday, Nov. 1, at the construction site, 7321 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater. 

The collaboration on a joint facility saves taxpayer money and agency resources currently going to maintaining aging buildings and equipment in lab spaces that were not built for their current use. Funded through a $53.2 million capital budget appropriation by the state Legislature in 2019, the new L&I/WSDA Safety & Health Laboratory and Training Center will be 53,000 square feet with room for several labs, offices, and conference rooms. 

Workplace safety and health testing and training

The new facility marks an improvement to L&I’s current Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) Lab and Training Center, currently housed in an aging and damaged facility on Plum Street in Olympia that was not designed for lab use. The DOSH lab analyzes samples taken at work sites to determine if hazardous chemicals or materials are present and, if so, the amount to which employees may have been exposed. 

The planned lab will provide the temperature control, workspaces, and other environmental needs for the analytical instruments that DOSH lab staff use. The training center will allow more students to attend training at one time, and, unlike the current center, include indoor and outdoor areas to demonstrate heavy earthmoving equipment, cranes, scaffolding, and other construction equipment. 

"Our partnership with Agriculture will make workplaces safer for Washington workers and businesses," L&I Director Joel Sacks said. "We are bringing our lab testing and safety and health training work into the 21st century." 

Agriculture testing for food safety, harmful crop diseases and new "bug lab"

For WSDA, the new building represents a vast improvement over its current laboratory settings. The agency currently has five labs squeezed into a former warehouse in Olympia, including a lab that conducts analysis important for food safety and a plant pathology lab that looks for signs of harmful disease in crops and horticulture. The aging building requires technicians to constantly calibrate the sensitive lab equipment, which can be affected by movement in the old warehouse. 

WSDA’s entomology lab, more commonly referred to as its bug lab, will also move into the new building. The collection of bugs, microscopes, and other equipment currently occupies a small office at the agency’s main office in Olympia. 

"This project will result in significant benefits for our agency and for the agricultural and food industry, but the big winner here is the general public," WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. "Our labs play a vital role in ensuring the safety of our food supplies as well as in monitoring potentially harmful plant diseases and invasive species. Through our partnership with L&I, this new building will set up our laboratory operations for continued success for decades to come." 

The new building was designed by ZGF Architects of Seattle, which was awarded the contract after a competitive bid process. The building includes electric vehicle charging stations, a lighting system designed to reduce nighttime light pollution, high efficiency water fixtures, and a low-energy LED interior lighting system. 

"We are thrilled to collaborate with the WSDA and L&I on this high-performance new facility as they do critical work protecting the safety of Washington’s workers and food supply," said Allyn Stellmacher, design partner at ZGF Architects. "In accordance with the state’s efforts to decarbonize and transition to 100 percent clean energy over the next two decades, this project will showcase sustainable green building strategies that set the bar high for all new state buildings."

Tacoma-based Korsmo Construction received the contract to build the new lab facility. Korsmo is a commercial building contractor that has been working in the greater Puget Sound area for 73 years. 

"As the general contractor/construction manager, we enjoy our partnership with WSDA and L&I, and working with ZGF Architects to build this shared facility," said John Korsmo, owner of Korsmo Construction. "The experience of our entire team, working together in this contract delivery method, will ensure the agencies and end users receive the highest quality project." 

WSDA and L&I have a history of collaborating on projects, and currently share a building in Yakima. The agencies expect to move into the new building in February 2023.

For media information:

Matt Ross, L&I Public Affairs, 360-801-7021

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