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OSHA and public health officials inspect MasterBrand facility in Grants Pass after COVID-19 case

A major employer in Grants Pass, Masterbrand Cabinets shut down on Thursday after one worker tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Posted: May 1, 2020 6:13 PM
Updated: May 1, 2020 6:21 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Kitchen cabinet manufacturer MasterBrand shut down its Grants Pass facility on Thursday afternoon after an employee tested positive for the new coronavirus, the company confirmed on Friday. Later in the day, OSHA and Josephine County Public Health said that they were investigating the location.

According to MasterBrand, that employee was last at the building on April 24. Associates who were in "prolonged close contact" with the person have been contacted and will be isolated and monitored for 14 days, the company said.

"We also notified all our employees of the confirmed case, and we sent employees home yesterday and brought in a 3rd party to deep clean the facility in advance of employees returning to work today," MasterBrand said in a statement.

Josephine County Public Health confirmed the new case in an update on Friday, saying that contact tracing was underway for the individual involved.

"Although we take our responsibility as a part of the critical construction industry supply chain seriously, worker safety is our top priority," a MasterBrand spokesperson said. "We are continuing to look at evolving safety measures that will allow employees to do their job safely — for instance, we've expanded and enhanced cleaning efforts, placed limits on occupancy for breakrooms, added lines marking floors to indicate six feet of physical distance, and have installed plexiglass between work stations where possible."

Manufacturers that employ large numbers in southern Oregon like MasterBrand and Timber Products — where a case was detected in early April — have not been closed by Governor Brown's stay-at-home order, but are supposed to follow strict physical distancing requirements. It's a difficult prospect for places that have many workers operating in close quarters.

Under the executive order, only grocery stores, health care facilities, and medical or pharmacy services are spared those requirements, but are "encouraged" to follow them nonetheless.

"We've also issued face coverings and are encouraging our employees to wear them while at work," MasterBrand continued. "We understand and share our employees' concerns during these challenging times and are having ongoing meetings with our teams to provide them with an environment where they feel comfortable and safe. We continue to follow the CDC guidelines and keep our teams informed to ensure our employees feel safe when they are on-site."

According to a spokesman for Oregon OSHA, the agency has opened an investigation into MasterBrand following multiple complaints alleging "concerns about a lack of social distancing." The agency maintained that its investigation was due to those complaints, and did not comment on the positive case.

Josephine County Public Health director Mike Weber said that his agency is now working with OSHA and MasterBrand to ensure that the company's policies are in accordance with the state social distancing orders for COVID-19.

“These are challenging and unprecedented times, and we are glad to work with our business community to ensure the continued health and safety of their work force,” said Weber. “Current guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority and the state enable manufacturing concerns to continue operations so long as physical distancing and specific hygiene measures are in place.”

Josephine County said on Friday evening that public health officials and members of OSHA had met with the management of MasterBrand to review those measures and ensure employee safety — and to conduct an inspection of the building. A statement from the County did not include any further information about the outcome of the inspection, but any further developments will be the domain of OSHA.

MasterBrand told NewsWatch 12 that enhanced safety measures at the Grants Pass facility had been put into practice several weeks ago, based on CDC recommendations.

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