Are you prepared to have an OSHA inspector show up at your office to conduct an inspection? What are the big issues that dental offices face as a result of OSHA regulations? Would your office pass an inspection or would you receive in the mail costly OSHA citations?
OSHA was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1970 and it stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA regulations were written to ensure safe and healthy working conditions. These regulations include training, outreach, education, and assistance. The states were given the option of having the federal regulations enforced by the federal government or instituting its own state-operated program to enforce the regulations. Iowa has its own OSHA program which has both an enforcement branch and a consultation branch.
Two of the most common standards that relate to dentistry are Bloodborne Pathogen Standard and the Hazard Communications Standard. There are many other applicable OSHA regulations to dental offices but these two areas are often the focus of an OSHA inspection.
The Bloodborne Pathogen Standard requires dentists to protect employees who are at risk for exposure to blood and body fluids. This protection includes Hepatitis B vaccination, training, and information on bloodborne pathogens and personal protective attire. All of this must be provided at no charge to employees. In addition, the employer must have written safety plans, including an exposure control plan.
The Hazard Communications Standard is also known as the “Employees Right to Know” regulation. The standard requires dentists to ensure chemical safety in the workplace. Information must be made available to employees about the identities and hazards of various chemicals. The standard requires employers to provide training, personal protective attire, information for labeling containers of chemicals, and to maintain Material Safety Data Sheets (“MSDS”).
The General Duty Clause requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” The General Duty Clause also requires “each employee to comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act, which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.” Dentists and the employees of dentists are responsible for safe work conditions and adhering to OSHA requirements.
When I meet with the Dental Association on May 1, 2015, I will be covering more in depth these sections, along with many of the other OSHA regulations which are applicable to a dental office. I will also be able to give you a checklist to go through when you do your own inspection of your office to ensure that you are complying with the OSHA regulations. Finally, I will cover what you need to do if you do get OSHA citations. Don’t assume that OSHA will never show up at your place of business. Be prepared for your examination.