Shining Ocean fined USD 56,000 for COVID-19 death

Published on
April 28, 2022

The U.S. state of Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries fined Shining Ocean Inc. USD 56,000 (EUR 53,000) for not enforcing mask use and other rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which it claimed resulted in one of its employees dying.

The Sumner, Washington-based supplier of Kanimi surimi seafood failed to enforce the rules during a 4 November, 2021 staff meeting, which directly led to the spread of COVID-19, according to a press release.

“Purposely ignoring the workplace coronavirus safety requirements at the meeting resulted in 16 workers becoming infected, one of whom died,” L&I said.

Only three or four of the 23 people who attended the meeting were reportedly wearing a mask.

“The president of the company wasn’t one of them. The company also had no system in place to verify worker vaccination status,” L&I said.

Jack Sullivan is the president L&I was referring to, a L&I spokesperson told SeafoodSource. Representatives for both Aquamar and Shining Ocean did not respond to SeafoodSource’s request for comment. Rancho Cucamonga, California, U.S.A.-based surimi producer Aquamar purchased Shining Ocean in December, making it the second largest surimi producer in North America.

When L&I inspectors asked Sullivan why the use of facemasks was not being enforced, he said he didn’t feel like there was a reason to, L&I said.  Employees said the company president told them it’s their personal choice whether or not to wear a mask. 

“This happened when COVID rates and hospitalizations were high and the requirement to wear masks was still in place,” Washington Department of Labor and Industries Assistant Director Craig Blackwood said. “Management got complacent about workplace safety, and it cost a worker his life.” 

The violation is classified as willful, because the employer knew the risk, but chose to ignore COVID-19 mandates, L&I said. Shining Ocean will be subject to increased scrutiny from L&I as part of its severe violator program.

The company did not appeal the citation and paid the fine in full. The money has been transferred into the state’s workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, which provides assistance to workers and families of those who have died on the job.

Contributing Editor



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