The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions for employees by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Dental offices have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace that does not have serious hazards and conforms to all OSHA safety and health standards.
Below, I’m answering some common compliance questions about OSHA and dental offices. If you have other questions, post them in the comments below.
Why should dental offices be concerned about OSHA compliance?
The most important reason for achieving OSHA compliance is to create a safe environment for all employees in the office. They may be exposed to chemicals, ergonomic hazards, radiation and infectious disease – all of which have the potential to cause both short and long term health effects. In addition, remember that the dental office is a business that must be protected from the risks of OSHA citation and fines as well as the potential litigation that could result from having a workplace that is considered to be “unsafe.”
What advice do you have for a practice looking to become compliant?
Realize that compliance is easily achievable if it is delegated to competent individuals in your office – the doctor simply does not have the time to make his/her office compliant. Assign an individual to be your Safety Compliance Officer (SCO) – possibly a trusted hygienist or dental assistant. Have them work with your Patterson representative, who can provide them with a list of OSHA requirements, needed safety products and access to training – either in-office or online.
How should dental offices be preparing for the new GHS regulations?
They need to begin training on the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication (GHS) immediately, as it is now required. Although the only present requirement is familiarization training, further requirements are being phased in between now and June 1, 2016. These include replacing MSDS with a newer version called SDS, and updating chemical/product labeling to the new GHS version. Your Patterson representative can assist you with meeting these requirements.
One last tip for our readers as they work towards getting compliant
My number one concern is always implementation – OSHA compliance is like so many things – we mean well but never quite get there. The only way I have found to successfully develop a culture of safety is to get your team involved. Appoint your Safety Compliance Coordinator, have them schedule your annual OSHA training, purchase the safety products you need, set dates/goals and involve your Patterson representative. They may not have all of the answers, but they have the resources to obtain them and will be glad to assist you in your compliance efforts.