Dairy worker dies, on meth, creating safety debate in Washington

A worker died on a Washington dairy last year, after driving into a manure lagoon. But there's more to the story, as the coroner's report found methamphetamine in the system of the deceased Randy Vasquez, 27.

Vasquez was driving a front end loader last February when he died at Riverview Ranch Dairy, Mabton, Wash.

In response to the death, last week 16 Democrats lead by Representative Brady Walkinshow of Seattle introduced a bill, H.B. 2484, that would permit Washington's State Department of Labor and Industries to adopt new rules, require agricultural safety training, and inspect every dairy farm for safety at least once every three years, among other items.

The state's dairy trade association is pushing back, however.

"It's unfortunate that somebody died, but if it had happened on a highway, we would be talking about a drug problem, not re-engineering the highway," Dan Wood, director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, told the Yakima Herald. "People are trying to take advantage of what happened to blame the dairies, but nothing in that bill would have prevented someone on drugs from harming themselves."

Wood also noted that agricultural employers already have 550 pages of documentation to follow in regards to safety.

The farm's owner, John Banks, paid a reduced fine of $2,200 and also began drug screening employees, he told the Herald in an earlier article.

The bill is supported by the United Farm Workers Union, an organization with a track record of aiming to organize member farms of Darigold/Northwest Dairyman's Association.