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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Dairy agrees to lower fine in worker’s drowning

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OLYMPIA — The Mabton dairy where an employee drowned in a manure lagoon has settled for a reduced fine with the state over workplace safety violations. The cause of the accident remains under wraps.

Last week, a hearing officer appointed by the state Department of Labor and Industries reduced the penalties against Riverview Ranch dairy from $6,800 to $2,200. Riverview in exchange agreed to build guardrails around every manure lagoon by Dec. 1.

The dairy has already built the rails, Jeff Lutz said Friday. He is the Washington Farm Bureau’s safety director who represented the ranch and owner John Banks in an appeal hearing of the original penalties on Sept. 3 in Kennewick.

The dairy also agreed in the settlement to post warning signs near the lagoons and store rescue equipment nearby as called for in the original citations, issued July 7.

Department investigators probed the dairy after employee Randy Vasquez was found inside a front loader submerged in a manure lagoon on Feb. 25.

The citations and fines were only for workplace safety hazards, not for what might have killed Vasquez, said Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the department. The fines would have been the same even if nobody was hurt, she said.

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