Sunday 23 September 2018

US company used by CervicalCheck had to pay €100,000 in fines over safety breach

(stock picture)
(stock picture)

Eilish O’Regan

Quest Diagnostics, the company in New Jersey that analyses smear tests for CervicalCheck, had to pay out more than €100,000 in penalties for failure to protect employees from hazardous chemicals used in laboratories.

The US Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration carried out an inspection of its Bridgeport area office in March 2016.

The laboratory did not provide each employee who displayed signs and symptoms of exposure to hazardous chemicals the opportunity for an appropriate medical examination.

The inspection also found it failed to inform each laboratory worker of the signs and symptoms of exposure to acetic acid, alcohols, formaldehyde, xylene and other chemicals used in the laboratory.

Sickened

“A laboratory chemical hygiene plan is not a paper exercise. It’s a continuous ongoing process that is key to preventing employees from being sickened by the hazardous chemicals with which they work.

“Our inspection found several serious deficiencies concerning the Shelton laboratory. For the safety and health of its employees, Quest must ensure that correct and effective safeguards are in place and in use at all its laboratories,” said the inspector.

The Irish smear results are read in Quest Diagnostic’s laboratory in Teterboro, New Jersey.

It also disclosed a data breach affecting about 34,000 people in 2016. Digital intruders stole personal and medical information of customers – including names, dates of birth, lab results, and, in some cases, telephone numbers.

They did not steal financial information such as social security or payment card numbers, the company said.

The decision to outsource half of the smear tests taken by CervicalCheck has come under criticism.

However, it was defended by HSE chief Tony O’Brien yesterday. He said the outsourcing to a lab in Texas in 2008 was carried out to deal with a backlog of several hundred tests.

“The current situation is that all the laboratories being used by CervicalCheck are in accordance with best international standards.”

The programme currently uses three laboratories to process cervical screening: Quest Diagnostics Inc, Teterboro, New Jersey USA; MedLab Pathology Ltd, Dublin; and Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin.

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