$60,000 fine issued for mask and social distancing violations at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

December 22, 2021

TUMWATER — The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is citing and fining the state Department of Corrections $60,000 for failing to enforce COVID-19 social distancing and mask procedures for employees at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Wash.

The citation is based on an L&I inspection initiated after the corrections center reported the death of a correctional officer who tested positive for COVID-19 in June of 2021. While the inspection was ongoing, a second employee tested positive in mid-July and passed away a month later. A worker at the same facility died of COVID-19 in December 2020.

L&I’s investigation found that the Department of Corrections staff had not enforced procedures for social distancing (maintaining six feet of space between employees) and didn’t ensure that all their employees wore facial coverings or masks at all times when not working alone. L&I has cited the correctional facility before, fining it $9,000 in June for mask use and social distancing violations. As a result of the latest inspection, Corrections has been cited for a willful serious violation.

The Department of Corrections has taken steps to correct the hazards, including:

  • Enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing.
  • Installing Plexiglas barriers along the walls of some cubicles.
  • Changing traffic flow to separate incoming and outgoing personnel.
  • Removing benches from the foyer and separating other chair locations.
  • Requiring a manager to review surveillance camera videos to ensure compliance.

In addition to these measures, Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine requirement for state workers, including DOC staff, has since taken effect.

The Department of Corrections has 15 working days to appeal the citation, and is required to post a copy for employees. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation goes into the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For media information:

Matt Ross, L&I Public Affairs, 360-801-7021. 
L&I Newsroom (https://lni.wa.gov/news-events).

Connect with L&I:
Facebook (www.facebook.com/laborandindustries)
Twitter (www.twitter.com/lniwa)