Longview paper mill fined $140,000 for failing to protect workers from COVID-19

LONGVIEW, Wash. — A paper-making plant in Longview was fined nearly $140,000 after one worker died and more than a dozen machine operators got sick with COVID-19.

According to the Department of Labor & Industries, an inspection at WestRock Services in March and April 2021 revealed that 15 workers who worked the same machine tested positive for COVID-19.

One of the workers died and two others were hospitalized with complications.

The death and hospitalizations were not reported to Labor & Industries as required.

The inspection also revealed that a WestRock machine operator who was recovering from coronavirus told the company’s onsite nurse he was having difficulty walking, was in pain and was having shortness of breath.

The worker asked to go home, but another worker had already been sent home after testing positive for COVID-19 and rather than adding to the list of unavailable workers, WestRock had him remain on the job with supplemental oxygen.

In total, Labor & Industries fined WestRock $139,832 for failing to follow COVID-19 protocols and failing to report the death and hospitalizations.

An additional complaint was filed with the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, due to concerns about the WestRock nurse’s actions.

WestRock has appealed the fine.