Worker died of COVID-19 after attending staff meeting at Sumner business
President of Shining Ocean fish processing ignored basic COVID safety measures
TUKWILA — An investigation into the COVID-19 death of a worker at a Sumner fish processing plant found company leaders knowingly putting workers at risk of exposure to the virus.
The Washington state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited and fined Shining Ocean Inc. $56,000 for not enforcing mask use and other rules during a November 4, 2021 staff meeting, directly leading to the spread of COVID-19. Purposely ignoring the workplace coronavirus safety requirements at the meeting resulted in 16 workers becoming infected, one of whom died.
Only three or four of the 23 people who attended the meeting were reportedly wearing a mask. The president of company wasn’t one of them. The company also had no system in place to verify worker vaccination status.
When L&I inspectors asked him why the use of facemasks was not being enforced, he said he didn’t feel like there was a reason to. Employees said the company president told them it’s their personal choice whether or not to wear a mask.
“This happened when COVID rates and hospitalizations were high and the requirement to wear masks was still in place,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director of L&I. “Management got complacent about workplace safety, and it cost a worker his life.”
The violation is classified as willful serious, because the employer knew the risk, but chose to ignore COVID-19 mandates. Shining Ocean will be subject to increased scrutiny from L&I as part of the severe violator program.
The company did not appeal the citation and paid the fine in full. That money goes into the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.
Dina Lorraine, L&I Public Affairs, 360-972-4868