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Businesses fined $285K after COVID outbreak at warehouse

COVID fines

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries fined three companies a combined $285,000 for knowingly putting workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The department said in a statement Tuesday that grocery supply company United Natural Foods Inc., along with Capstone Logistics LLC and Prime 360, failed to adhere to basic safety procedures to limit the spread of COVID-19 at a co-run warehouse in Thurston County. About one in four employees, 253 people, working at the warehouse tested positive for COVID-19 between July 7, 2021, and Oct. 5, 2021.

L&I said that after its initial investigation in July made the extent of the outbreak clear, the company said it voluntarily closed most operations and committed to using minimal required staffing. Further investigation, however, determined that the company continued to fulfill shipments with its general workforce.

The food company “also initially failed to provide contact information for employees who had tested positive through onsite testing, claimed not to know who some employees worked for, and allowed employees to work at the facility while the company knew or should have known that they tested positive for COVID-19,” the department said in its statement.

Capstone Logistics allegedly loaded workers into vans to transport them to the warehouse without screening for temperature and COVID-19 symptoms or requiring masks. An on-site manager for Prime 360 “showed intentional disregard for the health and safety” by refusing to enforce rules that he didn’t like, according to L&I. That manager allegedly told L&I that it was his policy to assume any employee not wearing a mask was vaccinated, and that he, therefore, did not need to check their status or enforce the wearing of masks.

Capstone and Prime 360 have appealed the citation and fines. United Natural Foods had not filed an appeal as of Tuesday morning.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.





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