OSHA Cites Group Homes For COVID-19 Worker Deaths
BURLINGTON, N.J. — A New Jersey group home operator failed to protect its employees from exposure to COVID-19, federal regulators found after investigating the deaths of two workers following outbreaks at several of its facilities.
Mount Holly-based health care provider Oaks Integrated Care failed to implement timely coronavirus mitigation efforts at its Bock Bay group home in Howell and the Pat LeBon Center in Lumberton, according to an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“The company failed to identify and isolate clients suspected of having the coronavirus who resided in its group homes, and did not adequately inform staff who worked with these clients about the associated risks,” the U.S. Department of Labor noted in an announcement of the violations.
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As a result, one worker at each facility was exposed to COVID-19 and later died of the virus. Outbreaks also exposed workers at five other Oaks Integrated Care group homes in New Jersey, OSHA found.
The agency also concluded that Oaks Integrated Care failed to develop and implement a respiratory protection program, provide appropriate respirators to employees who provided care to patients with the virus, provide respirator fit tests, or training on the use, cleaning and storage of respirators.
“OSHA cited the company with a serious violation of the respiratory protection standard, and a serious violation of the general duty clause that requires employers to ensure workplaces are free of recognized hazards that may cause death or serious physical harm,” the announcement noted.
Proposed penalties for the violations total $27,306.
The company has 15 days to comply with the findings, request a conference with OSHA or contest the findings before an independent review commission.
In response to the findings, Oaks Integrated Care issued a statement from CEO Derry Holland.
“Very sadly, we lost two Oaks Integrated Care employees to the coronavirus pandemic,” Holland said. “We reported the deaths immediately to OSHA as required by federal law and followed all guidelines from the Department of Health and Office of Licensing. The safety of our employees and clients is our highest priority. While we do not fully agree with OSHA’s findings, we continue to follow guidance from OSHA, the CDC and the State of NJ to protect everyone’s health and safety.”
Oaks Integrated Care, which provides services for adults and children with mental illness, addiction and developmental disabilities, operates in 19 New Jersey counties.
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