Farm company fined $2 million after 2 workers die of COVID

An agricultural company in Washington state where two workers died from COVID-19 was fined more than $2 million for repeatedly violating coronavirus virus safety procedures.

The state Department of Labor & Industries said Monday it launched an investigation in July after being contacted by an employee of Gebbers Farm Operations in Brewster, Washington. The employee said a worker had died of coronavirus, and that the migrant workers who shared a cabin with the deceased were not tested and then split into other cabins.

Authorities say they confirmed a 37-year-old temporary worker from Mexico died July 8, and the death was not reported to state officials as required. A second worker, a 63-year-old from Jamacia, died July 31. Both workers died of COVID-19.

The state investigation led to Gebbers being cited for 24 "egregious willful violations" for unsafe sleeping arrangments and unsafe worker transportation.

The company was fined $2,038,200, which it can appeal.

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"It’s unacceptable to chose to ignore health and safety rules," said Joel Sacks, Director, the director of Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

A phone call to Gebbers Farms seeking comment was not immediatley returned Monday afternoon.