A Look at OSHA Nitrous Oxide Exposure Regulations

OSHA Nitrous Oxide

For many people, the term ‘nitrous oxide” conjures thoughts of the only way to make it through a fearful encounter with their dentist. The colorless, slightly-sweet-smelling compound nicknamed “laughing gas” is commonly associated with anesthesia during dental or medical procedures.

With that in mind, what are OSHA’s nitrous oxide exposure regulations?

A Look at OSHA Nitrous Oxide Exposure Regulations – The Surprising Truth

As you might expect, there are OSHA regulations that apply to employee exposure to nitrous oxide gas. What may surprise you is that none of the regulations apply to the medical field.

OSHA regulations for nitrous oxide are only imposed for the construction and maritime industries. Instead, OSHA suggests following the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendation that exposure in dental offices should not exceed 25 parts per million (PPM) as a time-weighted average.

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A Look at OSHA Nitrous Oxide Exposure Regulations – Things to Consider

While there may only be guidelines regarding nitrous oxide exposure in dental offices, wise practice operators should minimize environmental exposure as much as possible. The same side effects of nitrous oxide exposure that are beneficial as an anesthetic can dull judgment and reaction times. 

Breathing nitrous oxide can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Long-term exposure can lead to infertility. Contact with liquid nitrous oxide can cause severe frostbite. Workers may be harmed from exposure to nitrous oxide. The level of exposure depends on the dose, duration, and type of work being done.

Even though it’s not a requirement, monitoring exposure levels of nitrous oxide is a wise thing to do as part of an overall OSHA compliance strategy in dental offices. Compliancy Group can help build an effective compliance plan that meets all federal requirements and protects your practice and staff from possible dangers.

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