Pop quiz: What does the ‘O’ in OSHA stand for? If you know it stands for ‘Occupational,’ then you probably also know that you need a plan that is specific to protecting your employees. If you do, you’re one step ahead of the game, but as the regulatory environment constantly increases its emphasis on inspection, awareness is no longer enough. While safety of your patients is paramount, an OSHA inspection will check to make sure that you have an actionable plan for maintaining the safety of your employees, and that you execute it. According to the OSHA website, “OSHA conducts inspections without notice,” though there are some indicators that you may see OSHA knocking sooner rather than later.
By their own accounting, they prioritize their inspections in the following manner: 1. Imminent danger situations, 2. Fatalities and catastrophes, 3. Complaints, 4 Referrals, 5. Follow-ups and 6. Planed or programmed investigations. With the recent news of dental practices having unsafe conditions (for both patients and employees), you can rest assured that regulators of all sorts have their ears and eyes trained on the dental industry. You should always be ready, both for the sake of maintaining compliance with regulatory authority and for the safety of yourself and your team. The components of a compliant workplace may vary, but the components of a safe dentistry office are critical to assuring that you are fulfilling your obligation to your team.
Although there is some variance between states, the federal laws of OSHA apply everywhere. To be prepared to meet federal OSHA standards for Dentistry, you must have plans for:
- Bloodborne pathogen training,
- Hazard communication,
- Formaldehyde exposure (Formocresol)
- Emergency action plans
- Radiation exposure
- Compressed gas storage and handling
- Hand protection
- Repetitive motion injury reduction
It is worth noting, too, that twenty five states, along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have also adopted their state-specific OSHA plans. Each of these plans releases an annual report of occupational injuries and hazards that have been identified and reported to OSHA. If you want to know what your inspectors will be looking for, look at your state’s report of what has happened recently. Some of the state plans, like California’s and Washington’s plans, are even stricter than Federal OSHA, and have stronger enforcement.
How many of the above items do you have a plan for? Did reading any of those make you wince? Certainly you have a plan in place to protect your patients, but what are you doing to protect your employees? Do you have a plan for achieving ALARA? Are you using a “Shoes for Crews” program to prevent slip-and-falls? Is safety addressed at every weekly meeting? These are some starting points toward becoming a more OSHA-Compliant business, but more importantly, these steps will help you become a better and safer workplace for your team, and achieving quality compliance for your patients, your practice, and your planet.