Washington Paper Mill Fined $140K for Failing to Protect Workers from COVID
A Cowlitz County, Washington, papermaking plant is facing nearly $140,000 in fines after one worker died and more than a dozen machine operators got sick with COVID-19.
An inspection by the Department of Labor & Industries reportedly revealed that during March and April, 15 workers who worked at the same machine at WestRock Services LLC tested positive for COVID-19. Of the 15, one worker reportedly died and two others were hospitalized from complications of the virus. Neither the death nor the hospitalizations were allegedly reported to L&I as required.
The inspection also reportedly revealed that in one instance, a machine operator recovering from coronavirus told WestRock’s onsite nurse he was having difficulty walking, was in pain, and was having shortness of breath, while another worker at the same machine had already been sent home after testing positive for COVID-19 the same morning.
L&I fined WestRock $139,832.00 for not following COVID-19 protocols and failing to report a death and hospitalizations to L&I. A formal complaint was filed with the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission under the Washington State Department of Health due to concerns about the nurse’s actions.
WestRock has appealed the citation. Money from fines is placed in the workers compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.