US Department of Labor cites pharma, biotech manufacturer for failing to protect workers from coronavirus at Monmouth County facility
EATONTOWN, NJ – An Eatontown manufacturer failed to protect employees adequately from workplace exposure to coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined, after an investigation into the deaths of two workers and the hospitalization of two others who contracted the coronavirus in the fall of 2020.
OSHA’s inspection found that Avantor Fluid Handling LLC failed to ensure physical distancing and that employees wore face masks in common areas. The agency cited the company for violating OSHA’s 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.
OSHA initiated the workplace safety and health investigation after the company alerted OSHA of the workers’ illnesses. OSHA alleges that Avantor failed to enforce safety protocols, such as distancing and mask wearing, that would have mitigated further spread of the coronavirus in the locker, gowning and break rooms at the Eatontown facility. The employer faces $13,653 in proposed penalties.
“Two workers lost their lives and others were sickened because their employer failed to take the precautions necessary to keep them safe,” said OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick in Marlton, New Jersey. “Tragically, this case should remind all employers of the importance of fully implementing coronavirus prevention measures.”
On March 12, 2021, 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.
Avantor Fluid Handling LLC manufactures, packages and distributes components and equipment for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries at its Eatontown facility. The company’s global headquarters is in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
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.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.