Washington Fruit Grower Fined After Workers Die in Tractor Rollovers

December 11, 2023

A Yakima, Washington, fruit grower and processor was fined nearly $300,000 by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries after two orchard workers died in tractor rollovers almost exactly a month apart.

The first fatality reportedly occurred May 7, when Borton & Sons employee Gilberto Padilla was driving a tractor on a county road between orchards when the front counterweights used to stabilize the tractor fell off. Padilla apparently drove over the weights, causing the tractor to roll.

The Roll Over Protection Structure on the tractor was reportedly not up at the time and Padilla was not wearing a seatbelt. ROPS are metal bars, frames, or crush proof cabs on farm equipment designed to prevent an operator from being crushed by the tractor in the event of a rollover.

After the May fatality, L&I directed Borton & Sons supervisors to ensure that tractor drivers use ROPS and wear seat belts.

On June 8, L&I received a report of another tractor rollover fatality at Borton & Sons. Oscar Rodriguez-Olivera was reportedly applying calcium to an orchard using a tow-behind sprayer attached to his tractor. Witnesses said he was traveling down a slope when he made a sharp left turn and rolled. The ROPS was reportedly not up on the tractor and Rodriquez-Olivera was not wearing a seat belt.

L&I cited Borton & Sons for five willful serious violations for the two incidents, citing them for the failure to use ROPS and seat belts, and for changing the scene of the June 8 accident before the inspection began.

The agency classified the violations as “willful,” and also cited the violations as “serious” because the issues lead to serious injury or death.

The combined fine was roughly $290,000. The company is appealing both cases.

Topics Washington

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