Washington Orchard Owner Fined $105,000 for Exposing Workers to Toxic Pesticide

September 9, 2015

A Yakima, Wash., orchardist is facing $105,000 in fines from the Department of Labor & Industries for multiple serious health violations related to pesticides. L&I recently cited Gilbert Orchards Inc., for 12 serious and repeat-serious health violations.

The state began the inspection in March after receiving information that employees were hand-applying a pesticide used to kill gophers, called Fumitoxin, without the required respirators or training.

Fumitoxin is a restricted-use pesticide that contains aluminum phosphide, which reacts with water to release phosphine gas. The gas is highly toxic and can be deadly.

Employers who use restricted-use pesticides must ensure that workers are trained to properly use respirators and work with hazardous chemicals. They must provide the proper respirators and fit-test them to ensure a tight fit. The employer must also post warning signs in treated areas, monitor the workers during the work activity and meet other requirements.

The inspection found that workers were applying the toxic pellets by hand, sprinkling them into gopher holes and adding water to activate the poison, while wearing the wrong respiratory protection.

Gilbert Orchards was fined $14,000 each for three repeat-serious violations. The employer was previously cited in July 2014 for not developing a specific respiratory protection program or fit-testing the respirators.

The employer was also fined the maximum penalty of $7,000 each for nine serious violations related to respirator requirements and hazardous chemicals.

In addition, the employer was cited for three general violations related to a lack of hand-washing and toilet facilities, recordkeeping, and not providing medical evaluations for employees required to wear respirators. General violations don’t typically carry a penalty.

The company has until Sept. 8 to appeal. Penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

Source: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

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