US Department of Labor cites Central New Jersey medical facility, staffing agency for exposing nurses to coronavirus hazards
LAKEWOOD, NJ – A Central New Jersey medical facility and temporary staffing agency failed to ensure the safety and health of nurses giving flu shots and testing potentially infectious patients for the coronavirus earlier this year, a U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation has found.
OSHA’s investigation – initiated in January in response to a complaint – found that Lakewood Resource and Referral Center did not provide medical evaluations to determine each employee’s ability to use a respirator before they required workers to use them, and failed to fit test employees required to wear respirators. The agency proposed $273,064 after citing the facility for two willful violations. In 2020, OSHA cited the facility for similar hazards after the company failed to protect staff providing medical and dental care from coronavirus.
Investigators also found Homecare Therapies failed to ensure medical evaluations were done and did not provide fit tests for workers required to use respirators. OSHA cited the staffing agency for two serious citations with $13,653 in proposed penalties.
“A safe and healthful workplace is every worker’s right and every employer’s responsibility,” said OSHA Area Office Director Paula Dixon-Roderick in Marlton, New Jersey. “In this case, both employers failed to protect vital frontline healthcare workers from exposure to the coronavirus.”
Lakewood Resource and Referral Center Inc., which operates as the Center for Health, Education, Medicine and Dentistry in Lakewood, contracted with Homecare Therapies – doing business as Horizon Healthcare Staffing – in October 2020 for temporary nurses to assist staff with the administration of flu vaccines initially. After the assignments began, the facility required nurses to administer 200 to 300 coronavirus tests each day for patients and the public.
Founded in 2009, Lakewood Resource and Referral Center Inc. provides preventative, treatment and health education services in Lakewood and the surrounding areas. Licensed in New York and accredited in New Jersey, Homecare Therapies LLC has operations in Manalapan. It has provided services in the New York metropolitan area since 1992.
The employers have 15 business days from receipt of their 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 became effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.