A 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 US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation has found.

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 initially assist staff with the administration of flu vaccines. After the assignments began, the facility required nurses to administer 200 to 300 coronavirus tests each day for patients and the public.

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 it required workers to use them, and failed to fit test employees required to wear respirators. The agency proposed $273,064 in penalties 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, the agency reported.

OSHA cited the staffing agency for two serious citations – failure to ensure medical evaluations were done and failure to provide fit tests for workers required to use respirators – with $13,653 in proposed penalties.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference or contest the findings. Homecare Therapies told SIA it contests the findings and has initiated an appeals process.

“Homecare Therapies is aware of OSHA’s finding,” Homecare Therapies said in a statement to SIA. “Though we respect the critical role that OSHA plays in ensuring that the safety of workers is its top priority, a view that Homecare Therapies unconditionally supports, we disagree with the finding. Appropriate appeal channels have been initiated, namely OSHA’s informal conference with its area director which is scheduled in the near future. Homecare Therapies is confident that upon the conclusion of this process, the conclusion will be that there has been no failure on its part. Homecare Therapies has for many years and will always continue to ensure that there is no more important objective than the safety of its employees, contractors and associates.”

“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.”