Wenatchee based Stemilt Ag Services LLC is facing more than $350,000 in fines for safety violations. 

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries says 10 workers were repairing an irrigation pipe near Othello when a portion of the trench caved in and buried one of the workers. 

The worker was uncovered and taken to a hospital with injuries. 

Labor & Industries cited Stemilt in March with five willful serious violations in connection with the cave-in. 

The company is appealing the citation and issued the following statement to KPQ:

"At Stemilt Ag Services, the safety and wellbeing of our Stemilters is and always will be paramount. We are grateful that the employee affected in this unfortunate accident has recovered. We’ll continue to evaluate our safety protocols and procedures to maintain the utmost care for our employees." 

According to Labor & Industries, the coworkers of José Antonio Vera Álvarez were able to uncover his face a couple of minutes after he was buried and dug for another 10 minutes to get him out of the trench.  

His ailments included multiple crush injuries to his head, face, and body.  

L&I said there was no protective system inside the trench to prevent a collapse, and no ladder or way for the workers to get out of the trench within 25 feet of where they were working.  

The agency also said the piles of dirt dug from the trench were not set back at least two feet away from the edge, and were too close to the trench, leading to a risk of collapse that can cause the walls to collapse.   

According to L&I, willful violations are among the most serious the agency issues. The citation means the employer knew or should have known about the safety requirements but chose to ignore them.  

Stemilt was cited and fined nearly $17,000 in Quincy in 2021 for violating the same trenching safety rules.  

L&I says the company is now considered a severe violator and is subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist. 

Thank an Idaho Farmer, These Idaho Agriculture Facts Will Blow You Away

All facts and information was provided by this Idaho Agriculture Infographic from 2021.

Gallery Credit: Parker Kane

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