TUMWATER — As the number of COVID-19 cases grows in Washington, so does the number of complaints about workplaces violating state Safe Start and masking requirements.
Complaints about possible violations are up substantially this week after Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions to help curtail the growing pandemic.
The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is one of the state agencies charged with helping make sure employers are following state requirements to protect employees and their communities during the pandemic.
L&I looks into public complaints with the goal of informing employers to ensure they know and understand the requirements. Nearly all of those complaints come through the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Businesses that refuse to enforce mask requirements or do not follow the governor’s proclamations face possible citations and fines.
Complaints by workers are sent directly to L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) for immediate evaluation. Those businesses may be inspected without prior outreach.
“This is about the safety of workers and protecting our communities,” said Anne Soiza, L&I assistant director for DOSH. ”We know how very hard this is for everyone, but it’s going to take all of us working together to drive the number of new cases down.”
L&I has investigated thousands of complaints regarding masking violations since July. Most of the companies the agency contacted agreed to follow requirements without the state taking formal action, but a small number have not.
L&I has cited 20 businesses for mask violations since July as a result of EOC complaints and a few public complaints that came directly to the agency. Many other DOSH inspections take place each day that may result in COVID-19 citations that are not in response to complaints to the EOC.
In October alone, L&I received more than 1,300 complaints about businesses not enforcing mask use rules with their employees and customers. In the last week, the number of new complaints has tripled.
The businesses listed below were cited and fined in the past two months:
- Agate Store (Shelton) — The market was fined $7,500 for not enforcing employee or customer mask use and other non-COVID safety violations. The business has appealed.
- My Good Market #5082 (Lacey) — Fined $6,000 for not enforcing customer mask use, not taking employee temperatures. An appeal has not been received.
- Hwy 99 Tire Center LLC (Vancouver) — Fined $4,500 for not enforcing employee or customer mask use and lack of a written safety program. The business did not appeal.
- Skagit Arms (Burlington) — The firearm and ammunition store was fined $3,600 for not requiring employees or customers to wear masks and for violating social distancing rules. The business has 15 days to appeal.
- Hot Toddy’s Coffee (Spokane) — Fined $3,000 for employees not wearing masks or social distancing. Did not appeal.
- Hot Mama’s Espresso (Walla Walla) — Fined $2,400 for not enforcing the customer mask requirement and no signage posted requiring masks. The business has appealed.
- Second Wind Espresso Inc. #2 (Spokane) — Fined $1,800 for employees not wearing masks or social distancing. The business has appealed.
- The Ugly Duck Inc. (Spokane) — The building materials warehouse store was fined $1,200 for employees not wearing masks. Did not appeal.
- Red Carpet Car Wash (Sequim) — Fined $900 for employees not wearing masks. The business has appealed.
Safe Start violations
Along with masking enforcement, L&I is also looking into complaints about businesses that are not supposed to be open or are required to limit service under the governor’s proclamations.
In September and October, three trampoline businesses were cited for violating the governor’s original Safe Start proclamation issued July 24, 2020. That order prohibited most businesses from operating unless their county is in the appropriate phase of the statewide plan to reopen, and the businesses follow specific safety requirements.
The companies are:
- A & D Trampolines LLC DBA, which operates as Altitude Trampoline Park in Marysville;
- Summit Trampoline Park in Bellingham; and
- BK Sports LLC, which operates as Altitude Spokane.
Trampoline parks are considered entertainment/recreation facilities and are not allowed to be open during phase two of the Safe Start order.
Each of the parks was cited for actively operating in violation of the governor’s order. The parks each face a penalty of $9,639. All three have appealed.
L&I posts informative data about Safe Start spot checks, safety consultations, and more on its Workplace Safety and Health coronavirus response dashboard.