There is often misunderstanding as to what OSHA regulates in a dental facility. OSHA, in fact, is concerned with only one thing—the safety of employees. OSHA, which is an acronym for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was formed through an act of Congress and its requirements are federal law. OSHA is concerned with all hazards that may be found in a dental office including those from the chemicals/materials we use daily.
The Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication
The newest OSHA regulation that is concerned with chemical safety is the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication (GHS). The GHS, as the name implies, is a way of communicating chemical safety hazards in a consistent manner throughout the world.
This new system utilizes Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and labeling that will be identical for the same chemical no matter if it was manufactured in Europe, Asia or North America. This will not only enhance the protection of both people and the environment, but will facilitate international trade. For example—in the dental industry, many products come from the United States, Japan and Germany. Once GHS is fully enacted, health care workers will see the same type of product labels and SDS on all of the products they purchase—no matter what the country of origin.
OSHA has decided to do a gradual phase-in, which will make implementation of these new regulations much easier. The compliance dates are as follows:
1. Employers/End Users
- Currently-Train employees on new labels and SDS
- June 1, 2016 -Update labels, complete training and fully implement a GHS compliant hazard communication program
2. Chemical Manufacturers, distributors and importers
- June 1, 2015 – Must comply with all provisions of GHS but may still ship the inventory they still have under the old system
- December 1, 2015 – All products shipped must be follow GHS protocol
Now is the time for all dental offices to begin GHS implementation. Start by training your staff on its requirements and develop a plan for full implementation by June 1, 2016.