Four companies accused of violating COVID-19 health protocols fined by OSHA

By: - April 25, 2022 3:28 pm
A health advisory sign

The companies were accused of violating federal COVID-19 health protocols. (Getty Images)

Four New Hampshire companies have been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after being cited for violating federal COVID-19 health protocols, according to the agency’s database. Cited violations include one company’s failure to make symptomatic employees stay home despite 43 workers testing positive for COVID-19 and not ensuring common areas were regularly cleaned. 

Three of the companies – American Performance Polymers in Colebrook, UPS in Londonderry, and Villa Crest Healthcare Center in Manchester – have agreed to pay fines ranging from nearly $8,000 to $15,000. None responded to messages. 

The fourth – Data Electronic Systems in Salem – is challenging a $15,800 fine, president Michael LaFleur said Monday.

American Performance Polymers, which manufactures nitrile gloves, was cited in March for failing to take the required steps following a September outbreak where 43 tested positive, according to OSHA records. 

The company did not notify other employees who had been in close contact with COVID-19-positive co-workers, OSHA records said. It also did not require symptomatic employees to stay home or leave work.

OSHA found that employees with COVID-19 were not required to report symptoms, nor did the company enforce masking or physical distancing or ensure regular cleaning of areas where infected employees had worked. Its use of fans increased the potential spread, according to the records. 

“The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” the records state.

The company, which did not return messages, was facing a nearly $15,000 fine. It reached an $8,000 settlement with OSHA in early April and must correct the violations by May 1. 

In April, Villa Crest Healthcare Center, a nursing and retirement facility in Manchester, agreed to pay nearly $15,000 to settle two violations that occurred in June 2020, OSHA records said. It had been facing a $20,800 fine.

The center failed to notify OSHA about the death of an employee from a “work-related incident” within eight hours, OSHA records said. It also did not ensure that employees were given “fit tests” to ensure their N95 masks fit properly.

Messages to Villa Crest Healthcare Center were not returned. 

In August, OSHA cited UPS in Londonderry for COVID-19-related violations and issued a $15,600 fine. The company reached an $8,100 settlement earlier this month that required it to review the company’s COVID-19 policies with employees and enforce mask requirements, social distancing, and cleaning procedures, according to the OSHA record.

UPS did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Data Electronic Devices, a high-tech manufacturing and design firm in Salem, was cited for failing to report its 2020 work-related injury and illness information on time, according to an OSHA record. 

It was also cited for allegedly putting employees at risk of contracting the virus by not informing them when they had had close contact with a co-worker who’d tested positive. And OSHA found it has failed to ensure eating areas and work stations were consistently cleaned and disinfected.

The company paid a $1,756 fine for failing to submit information on work-related injuries in time. LaFleur said the company tried to meet its deadline but ran into technical issues. 

The company is challenging a second $15,800 fine OSHA levied for the alleged COVID-19 violations. 

LeFleur said he followed all federal COVID-19 safety protocols, including restricting visitors, checking employee temperatures daily, using sanitation stations, and putting Plexiglass screens between workers. LeFleur bought 30,000 masks at the start of the pandemic and required employees to use them when the federal government had a mask mandate in place. The masks remain available to employees who wish to wear them, he said. 

Employees use the last five minutes of their shift to wipe down work stations, LeFleur said. There are daily cleaning crews, and LaFleur has hired a company to clean monthly using a fogger, a misting machine that spreads disinfectant on all surfaces. The air filtration system exchanges the air every seven minutes, he said. 

And he sent employees home after learning they had attended the wedding of co-workers where someone tested positive for COVID-19, he said. 

“Part of our company mission statement is to have the world’s happiest employees,” LeFleur said. “We are trying to do the right things for our employees and make sure they are safe and happy.” 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.