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An Eatontown, New Jersey, manufacturer has been fined $13,653 for allegedly failing to protect employees adequately from workplace exposure to COVID-19 following an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration into the deaths of two workers and the hospitalization of two others who contracted the coronavirus in the fall of 2020, the Department of Labor announced Thursday.
OSHA says an inspection revealed that Avantor Fluid Handling LLC failed to ensure physical distancing and that employees wore face masks in common areas, which led to citations that the company violated the general duty clause that requires employers to ensure workplaces are free of recognized hazards that may cause death or serious physical harm.
In November 2020, four company employees tested positive for the coronavirus and required hospitalization. By January 2021, two of the workers – a husband and wife – died due to complications related to the virus. The other workers recovered. In total, 30 out of 50 employees at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus, according to OSHA’s account.
OSHA initiated the workplace safety and health investigation after the company alerted OSHA of the workers’ illnesses.
An Avantor spokesman wrote in a statement that the company’s Eatontown facility “has for several years operated as a sterile, clean room environment where associates routinely wear masks, gowns and other important protective apparel as they manufacture technologies used in healthcare applications.”
“To ensure the safety and well-being of our team members, which is our top priority, we consistently modified safety practices in response to emerging guidance from state and federal officials. As such, we are currently in a constructive dialogue with OSHA regarding the matter,” he wrote.
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
Inspectors with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries have conducted 384 agricultural workplace safety and health inspections since March and found violations of pandemic policies at nearly a third of the sites, the agency said in a statement released Thursday.