Dick’s Drive-In fined $35K for severe health and safety violations

SEATTLE — Dick’s Drive-In was fined $35,100 by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries for various health and safety violations, according to the results of a health inspection report issued on August 4.

The twelve citations, rated from General to Serious, had individual fines up to $5,400 each.

The report found that management frequently ignored social distancing and masking requirements and employees were regularly exposed to maskless customers and coworkers.

Fines were levied for failing to provide workers with required safety equipment to protect workers from blood, needles, bleach and from burns suffered while grilling burgers.

President of Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants Jasmine Donovan acknowledged receipt of the report and will be appealing several of the findings.

After acknowledging receipt of L&I’s report on Aug. 9, Donovan said the violations applied to mainly four specific issues. Dick’s strongly disagrees with three of them and will be appealing.

“Employee handling of bleach in our restaurants to make sanitizing solution was not in compliance with current L&I requirements. Employees are required to wear gloves and googles when measuring out the tablespoons of bleach required to make sanitizing solution. We are required to conduct documented safety training on the procedure, update our known hazard sheets, and install eye wash sinks at all locations. We welcome the opportunity to improve here and much of this is already corrected in all locations. The rest will be completed in the next few weeks. This addresses five of the violations.

We do not conduct blood born pathogen (BBP) safety training for employees who are NOT required to come into contact with needles as part of their role (we already conduct this training for employees who are required to dispose of needles). We are appealing all related violations as it is not currently required by L&I. We have added sharps containers to our public restrooms and will be adding additional training voluntarily to improve employee safety due to the number of needles our employees identify on a daily basis, which is disappointingly high.

· We do not provide or require specifically KN95 or N95 masks for employees in our kitchens to protect them from COVID-19 transmission. At no time during the pandemic was this mandated for restaurants because of the impracticality of their proper use in kitchen settings. For much of the pandemic use of KN95 or N95 masks was actively discouraged by public health to preserve supply for medical workers. In fact, we donated the KN95 masks we were able to source directly to local hospitals. We are appealing this violation.

We are being directed to require our employees to wear protective heat sleeves when working on our grills. This is not required in any other restaurant setting and there is no specific requirement currently in L&I regulations. L&I states that the frequency of burns makes it necessary in our case. We have only had three L&I claims related to grill burns in two years which is equivalent to over 100,000 employee hours on the grill. We are appealing this violation.

In March, Dick’s Drive-In publicly responded to allegations from five employees of health and labor violations that were filed with the Department of Labor & Industries.