Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day of fruit inspection reveals importance of service, and safety

Robert Ambriz
WSDA Safety Officer

F&V inspector, Russell Burkett, checking apples
at a produce packing facility.
As our agency’s safety team continues its initiative to shadow WSDA employees to learn about their work safety concerns, it falls on each of the safety officers to spend time in the field. For my job shadow day, I spent time with Russell Burkett, an inspector with the WSDA Fruit and Vegetable (F&V) Inspection Program.

As part of a fairly standard work day, Russell visits a different packing warehouse each month. I was able to see firsthand some of the workplace hazards Russell and all of our F&V inspectors encounter.

Potential packing warehouse risks

For instance, forklift traffic is common in produce packing warehouses. Most operate on propane, which puts carbon monoxide (CO) into the air. I advise F&V staff to be extra cautious when in forklift traffic areas, and to report any type of CO symptoms to a supervisor or me so we can check the air quality.

Also, many warehouses use chemicals, such as ammonia, acid, and chlorine. These can present hazards. For instance, in December 2016, some residents of the town of Zillah were evacuated due to an ammonia leak from a fruit company warehouse. I encourage workers to know where to find Safety Data Sheets. These are important documents that give details about hazardous chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace.

Once every month, I give a presentation to the F&V staff in Yakima about hazards they may encounter and how to deal with them.

Along with my safety focus on these shadowing visits, I’ve learned more about why it’s so important for F&V inspectors to spend most of their day being physically present at the industry facilities they serve.

Inspectors key link for industry

WSDA serves the produce industry by ensuring they meet quality standards, especially for the products they export outside the U.S. Different countries require various levels of inspection. Generally, F&V staff inspects about two percent of every 100 pieces being shipped – that equals 24-40 apples from every box.

Inspectors assess a grade (e.g. #1 Extra Fancy Red Delicious) and condition for defects such as decay, skin breaks, color, blemishes and so forth. They’ll do pressure and sweetness tests. Determining ripeness may involve a chew, thumb or starch iodine test. These are technical processes that require a good deal of training to learn.

According to F&V data, Washington shipped 46 million apples between October 2016 and the start of 2017. Washington is tops in the nation for apple production, on average producing 2.5 million tons of apples per year valued at more than $2 billion. 

“Without the services of F&V inspectors, we could lose about 10 loads a day,” commented the warehouse manager I spoke with. “Having them in our warehouse provides peace of mind.”

The WSDA safety team is committed to making sure our employees are protected from workplace hazards – so they can consistently provide these vital services to Washington State and return home safe and healthy every day.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Don't get stung by fees - register your hives

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Although the state is still either frozen or soggy depending on your location, it won’t be long before the bees start buzzing and ramping up their honey-making for the year. That means it is time again to register your hives.

All beekeepers – even home hobbyists – are required to register their hives with the state. The fees start at just $5 for up to five hives and range up to $300 if you have over 1,000 hives. The registration fees support apiary research projects. For example, fees have been used to support research into Colony Collapse Disorder and colony health.

If you previously registered hives but won't have any in 2017, WSDA requests that you complete the form and indicate that you don't have any hives so that you will be removed from their list.

Registration is due by April 1st and is subject to late fees if not paid by then (no fooling.) You must register your hives each year.

Go to to download the registration form. You can also contact the WSDA Pest Program at or call them at 360-902-2070 with any questions.