3 Costs of Complying with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

Let’s face it. Complying with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is a headache. It involves understanding the regulations, gathering SDSs, generating chemical reports, and much more. Because of this, many dentists either do nothing or do what they believe to be bare minimum. The problem is that the regulations are often misunderstood and the so-called bare minimum may actually not be enough, leaving your business out of compliance.

Among other things, assigning your existing staff members to handle compliance can cost more than you think. Specifically, there are 3 main costs that OSHA’s Hazard Communication can pose to businesses: risk of fines and related legal costs, direct and indirect staff costs and opportunity costs. Together these costs can significantly affect your bottom line and in some cases even threaten the viability of your practice.

The first and most obvious cost is the risk of OSHA fines and the related legal costs. When told that the fines can be up to $7,000 per day per incident, most people discount this. They think “I’ve never been inspected by OSHA,” so they erroneously assume their risk is 0%. So, let’s examine that assumption.

  • In Fiscal Year 2013, OSHA issued more than 6,000 citations for Hazard Communication violations alone (the regulation that affects Material Safety Data Sheets) for a total of more than $3 million in fines.
  • In FY 2015, OSHA plans to increase total number of inspections above the 83,380 done in FY 2014.
  • In FY 2014, on average, the final penalty per Dental Office inspected was $3253[i].
  • There are new OSHA regulations that directly affect dental offices.

Clearly, the risk of an OSHA inspection is greater than 0%. How much time and money would you and / or your lawyers spend resolving the cause of the citation and / or fighting it? This isn’t even the biggest cost of compliance.

The biggest hidden cost is in direct and indirect staff costs. For example, to be compliant with your Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), you must regularly contact manufacturers to obtain the most current one. You must keep them organized and readily available. If your staff is doing it right, they are likely spending, on average, at least 3 hours per week.  How much do you pay that staff?  What aren’t they doing because they are spending time dealing with MSDS?  This brings us to the third cost of compliance.

Opportunity cost is the revenue you lose because an employee is spending time on something else. Some dental offices have their hygienist manage MSDS.  Ouch! Talk about high opportunity costs! This happens because of a lack of understanding of what it takes to be truly compliant.

The fact is, complying with OSHA is the cost of doing business. But, if you aren’t careful, it could be costing you more than it needs to.  With today’s technology, there are cost effective ways to be truly compliant. One such way is through AutoSDS, Patterson Dental’s new eservice designed to make compliance easy and affordable. I encourage you to learn more about this innovative new service by visiting AutoSDS.com, calling the Patterson Technology eService team at 800.294.8504 or by contacting your Patterson representative.


[i] Source: www.OSHA.gov, calculated by dividing the total dollar amount of all citations assessed against dental offices by the total number of inspections.


3 thoughts on “3 Costs of Complying with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

  1. Is the ability to quickly reference and view the SDS sheets on-line a viable alternative to having paper copies in the office?

  2. You are not in violation if you do not have a paper copy of an (M)SDS as long as you can provide employees with the (M)SDS. So, you can replace your binder with an electronic library.

    In an opinion dated September 16, 2008, OSHA specifically states “… OSHA would allow a written program to be in either paper or electronic format, as long as the program meets all other requirements of the standard in question.” (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22627)

    Ideally, you would want to have mobile access through cellular devices such as smart phones (AutoSDS is available on mobile devices).

    In 1998, OSHA issued the following interpretation: “…if the employer is relying on telephone transmittal of hazard information only for the purposes of backing up the primary electronic system, and if the MSDS will be provided as soon as possible after the request was made, we would consider this system an adequate back-up to the primary system.” (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22627)

    Keep in mind this was before Smart phones. AutoSDS allows access to the actual (M)SDS through cellular devices such a smart phones. So, if there is a power failure and you did not have an operational computer, you would still have access to the (M)SDS.

Comments are closed.