The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Hackensack Meridian Health Residential Care Inc. OSHA issued three violations for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus at its North Bergen, New Jersey, facility.
OSHA proposed a penalty of $28,070 for the violations.
According to data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services the North Bergen nursing home has 41 Covid-19 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Based on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited Hackensack Meridian Health for a serious violation for failure to provide respirators to resident-care employees for a period of time in March 2020. Employees were caring for residents who were exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. OSHA also cited the employer for failure to conduct respirator fit testing, effective training and compliant medical evaluations, during the period after the employer began providing respirators to the employees and requiring their use. OSHA cited one other-than-serious violation for the facility’s failure to establish a fit-test record for qualitative fit tests.
“Employers must take appropriate steps to protect the safety and health of their employees during the pandemic,” said OSHA Area Director Kris Hoffman, in Parsippany, New Jersey. “OSHA will continue to field and respond to complaints and take steps needed to address unsafe workplaces, including vigorous enforcement action for all standards that apply to the coronavirus, as warranted.”
OSHA guidance details proactive measures employers can take to protect workers from the coronavirus, such as social distancing measures and the use of physical barriers, face shields and face coverings when employees are unable to physically distance at least 6 feet from each other. OSHA guidance also advises that employers should provide safety and health information through training, visual aids, and other means to communicate important safety warnings in a language their workers understand.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Employers with questions on compliance with OSHA standards should contact their local OSHA office for guidance and assistance at 800-321-OSHA (6742). OSHA’s coronavirus response webpage offers extensive resources for addressing safety and health hazards during the evolving coronavirus pandemic.