A worker's death and complaints from workers at a blueberry farm in Washington have sparked a state investigation into the farm's safety, health practices and employment standards. Complaints included a lack of water, dirty water and pressure from the farm's operator to work in extreme weather.
Several workers picking blueberries at a farm in Sumas, Washington, told state officials last week that the heat, smoke from wildfires in British Columbia, and a lack of clean drinking water are several reasons why they are speaking up after a co-worker collapsed and died.
Honesto Silva Ibarra had complained of headaches and was taken to a clinic. The 28-year-old collapsed and later died at a local hospital.
"Everyone was afraid of being fired. That's why no one spoke up," Alfredo Urbano Mart?nez, 20, from Michoac?n, Mexico, told the Seattle Times. He and others complained about the living and working conditions at the farm, and about how food that they paid for through their employer was often undercooked.
Washington Labor and Industries spokesman Tim Church has said that the agency is following through on two investigations of the farm that could take as long as six months. One will look at workplace safety that will include a health inspection and another is focusing on employment standards at the farm.
Questions still to be answered are if the farm had proper label and safety notices in both Spanish and English, or if the farm had simple communication practices in place about health and sanitation reporting.
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