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Following the deaths of 14 agriculture workers in 2020, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health announced Wednesday that it is launching a new safety team.
The team of 16 will focus on improving safety and health by performing agriculture worksite inspections and looking into safety complaints and provide education and outreach to farm operators and employees, according to the statement.
The department conducted an “unprecedented” 433 agriculture inspections in 2020, citing employers for more than 500 violations yet fatalities increased nearly 50% from the 10 recorded in 2019, according to the department’s announcement.
While three of the deaths in 2020 were caused by COVID-19, most were the result of workplace hazards that could have been prevented, including several tractor rollovers and machinery-related incidents, according to the statement.
Inspectors with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries have conducted 384 agricultural workplace safety and health inspections since March and found violations of pandemic policies at nearly a third of the sites, the agency said in a statement released Thursday.