OSHA cites Hackensack Meridian for ‘failing to protect’ Harborage employees from COVID-19

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Hackensack Meridian Health for allegedly “failing to protect” employees at the Harborage nursing home in North Bergen from COVID-19, with a potential penalty of $28,070.

Photo via nursinghomes.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

OSHA issued two serious citations and one other-than-serious violation for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus at the Harborage in North Bergen, located at 7600 River Road – adjacent from the Palisades Medical Center.

For the violations, OSHA has proposed a penalty of $28,070.

Based on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited Hackensack Meridian Health for a serious violation for failure to provide N95 masks to resident-care employees on March 23rd and 24th.

At that time, employees were caring for residents who were exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus.

Additionally, Hackensack Meridian was cited for failure to conduct respirator (face mask) fit testing, effective training and compliant medical evaluations, during the period after the employer began providing respirators to the employees and requiring their use.

Hackensack Meridian was also cited for 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,” OSHA Area Director Kris Hoffman said in a statement.

“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 six feet from each other.

Furthermore, OSHA 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.

In late April, the New Jersey Department of Health released data that showed their were 20 coronavirus-related deaths at the Harborage to date.

Hackensack Meridian Health could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Employers with questions on compliance with OSHA standards can contact their local OSHA office for guidance and assistance at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

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