Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I would assume that any dental professional would attest to this statement with regard to both practice and clinical care. When it comes to prevention, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Compliance and Infection Control in a dental practice is absolutely imperative and often unintentionally goes by the wayside. We are operating in an ever-changing dental environment and OSHA/Infection Control must be considered part of a daily practice care agenda.
I began my career in dental as a Dental Assistant in 2016. Throughout my career, I was able to learn all aspects of clinical dentistry while gaining an education in overall practice management. Many dental professionals agree that some practices provide an education on what not to do in the dental practice. It is through these good and not so good experiences that I’m able to share some pointers.
One of the key assignments I had throughout my career was being the assigned OSHA and Infection Control Officer for each practice. If you’re a dentist and you own your practice, you might be asking why an assistant would be assigned such an important role. OSHA actually requires employers to assign an officer in the practice to oversee guidelines under the OSHA General Workplace Safety Standard. This includes CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines such as Hazard and Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, OSHA safety, and infection control monitoring for both patients and employees. As the appointed OSHA officer in the practice, I would make sure to have both team and individual employee communication with all staff members regarding OSHA and safety standards. You will find many OSHA and infection control violations occur due to a lack of internal systems and communication in the practice.
If you’re a dentist or an employee of a practice, are you confident that your fellow team members understand the OSHA and infection control policies set in your practice? Does each employee understand the necessary actions steps needed if they are exposed to hazardous materials, bloodborne pathogens, or most commonly, a needle stick? The CDC estimates that over 600,000 needle sticks occur annually which puts every dental employee at risk for various health issues. I can say from personal experience that this is extremely common in a dental office and happens to even the most cautious of employees. My best advice is to ensure that every employee is trained in sharps disposal as well as the proper handling of dental syringes and anesthetics.
We as dental professionals might assume that it will never happen to us. We hear stories about OSHA inspections, but how could that ever occur in a family practice like ours? I can say that every practice is liable for a random OSHA inspection and must be in full compliance to avoid fines ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars. I state this fact, not with the intention of frightening my readers but to educate and spread awareness about such an important topic. I’ve added links below containing a detailed OSHA and Infection Control audit checklist for your convenience. I urge you to meet with your OSHA and infection control officer and review all aspects of each checklist as it will assist in maintaining or achieving practice compliance.
What’s important to note is that OSHA inspectors are actually quite reasonable and you truly do have a team that is willing to assist if your practice is ever in violation or facing an inspection. An OSHA inspector will typically reach out initially via verbal and written notice. If this should occur in your practice, I advise you to contact both your OSHA and Safety officer in your practice as well as your Henry Schein representative. Henry Schein representatives are highly trained in the field of OSHA compliance and can assist you with the help of HPTC Compliance Training Partners. Your Henry Schein representative can also guide you to cost-effective online OSHA training options for the entire dental team. Annual OSHA certification is a requirement per OSHA guidelines and must be performed either online or in office by a certified OSHA trainer.
Frank began his career in 2008 as a Dental Assistant for a prominent multispecialty dental group in Staten Island, New York. After gaining experience in the dental field, Frank joined the Henry Schein team as a Field Sales Consultant in 2013, ranking as one of the top rookie territory reps in the United States for that given year. Frank then went on to work with Henry Schein’s Business Solutions team in 2015 and is currently the Eastern District Manager for said division. Frank has consulted hundreds of dental practices across the eastern area and continues to help guide dentists on the path to practice efficiency and profitability.