Josephine County, OR (WorkersCompensation.com) – A hemp-processing facility is accused of letting its workers live and work in a once-condemned building. Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health fined the operators $825,000.
According to Oregon OSHA, five businesses in connection with the hemp processing facility were fine, all of which are located in Josephine County. Inspection documents identify the operators of the facility as Jai B Levy, Yoram Levy, and Yuval Magid. In addition are two companies, Eighteen New Hope LLC and Safe and Simple LLC. Documents identify that the Levys are the owners of Eighteen New Hope, and Magid is the manager of Safe and Simple.
Investigators discovered that at least 25 employees were living and trimming and packing hemp for resale out of a warehouse that was a little over 23,000 square-feet in the community of Murphy. The investigators documented that the building had structural defects as well as barriers to exit routes that could have potentially been life-threatening to all that lived inside.
In a media release, OSHA Spokesman Aaron Corvin stated that the department had been investigating workplace violations since this past May after the state fire marshal alerted inspectors about theproperty. By the time this happened, Corvin noted that the building was already abandoned. Still, there was documentation stating that for about three weeks in April, workers were living and working in the building.
The condition of the building had been so bad that the problem wasn’t truly resolved, and OSHA tracked down the business owners and found employees who had worked and lived inside the rundown building. “It’s a fairly extreme situation,” said one worker. “We literally had employers allowing people to occupy a condemned building.”
The ‘willful nature’ of the violations is what made the case stand out, and is the reason for the massive fine handed down by the department.
Oregon OSHA cited the operators of the business for multiple alleged violations. Those included allowing employees to stay in the building, even though in 2017 the county’s building inspector had required that the building be fixed before anyone was able to use it again. Authorities also said the building had gaps in and under the walls that could have allowed water, insects, and rats in.
The citation stated that the building was padlocked from the outside and did not have any permanent exit routes. Furthermore, it said employers were conducting business as agricultural farm labor contractors without having the proper license.
WorkersCompensation.com’s request for comment from Oregon OSHA was not answered by press time. The business owners have not yet appealed the citation and as of yet, have not paid their fines.