Investigation follows two workers’ deaths after outbreaks in Howell, Lumberton
June 30, 2021
MOUNT HOLLY, NJ (BURLINGTON)–Following a coronavirus outbreak in March that led to the deaths of two workers, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that a Mount Holly-based healthcare provider failed to implement a required coronavirus prevention program at two of its locations.
OSHA determined that Oaks Integrated Care Inc. did not develop and implement timely and effective measures to mitigate the spread of the virus following outbreaks at its Bock Bay group home in Howell and the Pat LeBon Center in Lumberton. 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.
As a result, two workers – one at Bock Bay and the other at the Pat LeBon Center – suffered exposure and eventually died from the coronavirus. The outbreaks also exposed workers at other Oaks Integrated Care group homes, including Turner Lane Group Home, Evergreen Manor Group Home, R.I.S.E., Jerry Gavin House and the Martha’s Boulevard Group Home.
Additionally, OSHA found the company failed to:
- Develop and implement a respiratory protection program.
- Provide NIOSH-certified respirators to employees who provided care to confirmed coronavirus-positive clients.
- Provide workers with fit tests or medical evaluations to ensure effective use of the required respirators.
- Provide effective training in the use, cleaning and storage of a respirator.
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. Proposed penalties total $27,306.
“Healthcare workers must have increased protections since they face the greatest risks of coronavirus exposure,” said OSHA’s Area Office Director Paula Dixon-Roderick in Marlton, New Jersey. “Employers in the healthcare and long-term care industries have an obligation to ensure effective safeguards and controls are in place to protect employees, patients and others from infection and further spread of the coronavirus.”
Oaks Integrated Care Inc. offers healthcare services in 19 New Jersey counties for adults, children and families with mental illness, addiction or developmental disabilities.
The employer has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
On March 12, OSHA launched a national emphasis program focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The program also prioritizes employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.
On June 10, OSHA also issued an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from contracting coronavirus. The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
June 30, 2021