A Pasco potato processor is appealing a $213,000 fine by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries for repeat safety violations and being labeled a “severe” violator.
Washington Potato Co., which is affiliated with Oregon Potato, was sanctioned with fines and the “severe” violator label May 24 after an inspection of its Grant County plant at Warden identified numerous repeat safety violations.
The state inspected the plant after a worker was seriously injured when his arm was caught in an augur. The worker had been cleaning the equipment when a second employee, unaware of the first, started the machine.
The state fined the company $213,160 for 24 separate violations of workplace safety regulations, with escalating fines for repeat violations.
Violations included safety procedures to prevent machinery from starting or moving during service, not properly installing guards around a pulley and belt system, an uncovered well and failure to identify “confined space” hazards such as wastewater pits, vaults, and boilers.
The company filed an appeal June 14 challenging all 24 violations, the fine and being identified as s “severe” violator.
It said the state inaccurately grouped Oregon Potato with sister businesses, including Pasco Processing LLC, and Freeze Pack, as a single entity. It said the company’s leadership and employees do not interact with other facilities and were unaware of the incidents and safety program at the Pasco plant.
Washington corporation records indicate that two Oregon Potato executives, Frank Tiegs and Tim Tippett, serve as governing members Pasco Processing. Oregon Potato is identified as the sole governing member of Freeze Pack, according to records maintained by the Washington Secretary of State’s corporations division.
Pasco Processing and Fresh Pack both are incorporated as limited liability companies.
According to the appeal, Washington (Oregon) Potato is an entirely separate entity.
It appealed the violations saying the conditions did not violate regulations or expose employees to risk and that missteps were the result of employees not following safety protocols.
Oregon Potato said it has implemented fully compliant policies, programs and training in all the areas cited in the fine.
“(Oregon Potato Co.) is committed to providing all of its employees a safe workplace and works to ensure that it meets and exceeds all workplace safety and health requirements, “ it said in the appeal.