Are You Really in Compliance with OSHA?

In general, dentists want to comply with OSHA regulations. After all, who would willingly risk the astronomical fines of up to $5K and more per incident per day? The problem is that many dentists struggle to understand the regulations and can mistakenly believe they are in compliance.

There are several regulations that dental offices must consider, but the most misunderstood is the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). In fact, it was the second most common OSHA citation in 2013 across all American industries. With upcoming changes to the regulations – OSHA’s new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) – going into effect by June 1, 2016 for dentists, the citations are expected to increase.

So what are the regulations? OSHA requires dental offices to have “readily available” and “up to date” (M)SDSs for all hazardous products in their practice. They are also required to have a list of hazardous chemicals. So, what exactly does that mean? In some respects, it is easier to say what it doesn’t mean. Here are some of the common misconceptions that I’ve heard from dental offices:

Misconception 1: “All I have to do is put the (M)SDSs I receive with my orders in our binder.”

This does not meet the “up to date” requirement. (M)SDSs are often revised. The three most common reasons for an (M)SDS to be revised, besides administrative changes, are 1) there is new research (for example, new cancer findings); 2) the product has been reformulated; and 3) there are new regulations (like the new GHS regulations).

For this reason, you need to regularly contact the manufacturer to be sure you have the most current (M)SDS. You should also keep the previous versions in case a newer version is due to a formulation change.

Misconception 2: “The (M)SDSs are available on the Internet, for example at, so I don’t need a copy in my office.”

This does not meet the “readily available” requirement. OSHA requires you to have (M)SDSs for the specific products you use, and they need to be organized and maintained in a fashion that makes it easy to find a specific (M)SDS. Manufacturer and distributor websites have many products you do not use, and any one manufacturer/distributor does not have all of the products you do use.

To be compliant, you need an (M)SDS library (or binder) with all of the hazardous products you use and only those products. Your (M)SDSs need to be up to date and easily accessible to employees within their work area. You also need to have a list of all hazardous products.

You can use binders to comply, but they are expensive to maintain due to hidden costs like office staff time. Not only that, but binders can quickly turn into bulky dust collectors that are an eyesore in patient treatment areas (employee work areas). They also don’t provide an easy way to generate a hazardous chemical list. [See Why MSDS Binders Are No Longer A Good Enough Approach].

AutoSDS is Patterson’s new solution to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. It’s a new, easy and affordable way to be compliant: users are provided with an online library that is automatically updated and also available through mobile devices like smartphones. It also makes creating a list of hazardous products quick and easy. In fact, it only takes seconds.

It’s time to stop worrying about whether or not your practice is in compliance with OSHA and focus on what’s most important: your patients and your business!

2 thoughts on “Are You Really in Compliance with OSHA?

  1. What happens if there is a power failure and the computers are down.? Computuers do have batteries,such as lab tops but the batteries generally last for no more than 2.0 hours. What then? How do you access the SDS in an emergency? OSHA sites “Readily Available” you are in violation if you don’t have a hard copy to reference.

  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.” (

    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.” (

    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.

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