Five Ways to Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices

OSHA Dental

Effectively managing a modern dental practice requires many skills beyond dental school training. Keeping up with new techniques, maintaining current clients, marketing to new clients, overseeing staffing, and many other demands may make you wish you had also studied juggling and tightrope walking.

With all these moving parts, it’s easy to overlook regulatory compliance demands like OSHA and HIPAA. Doing so puts your practice and your livelihood at significant risk. OSHA has an aggressive stance toward violations that affect employee safety, and the fines assessed can be crippling. Here are five ways to reduce the stress of complying with OSHA for dental offices.

Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices – 1. Ignore OSHA at Your Peril

Every day, dental professionals see what happens when people minimize or ignore regular dental care. Minor issues become catastrophic, resulting in sometimes drastic solutions that negatively affect patients’ quality of life and bank accounts.

The same principle is true with OSHA regulations for dental offices, except now you and your practice are the ones who suffer. Failing to follow the guidelines established by OSHA for dentists and their practices exposes you to severe violations and fines should you be selected for a surprise audit or be reported by a whistleblower.

This isn’t something optional, like upgrading equipment. OSHA regulations are federal law, enforced by an agency that regularly assesses six- and seven-figure fines to companies in other industries when they find practices that put employees at risk. You know the old saying, “the only thing that disappears if you ignore it is your teeth”? Ignore OSHA regulations for dental offices, and watch your dollars and reputation disappear.

Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices – 2. Get the Right Tools and Skills and USE Them

Think about your dental practice. How many of the dental issues you see daily could be prevented if patients correctly used essential tools such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss? Proper tools combined with proper technique are a recipe for good dental health.

The same is true if you hope to achieve OSHA compliance for dental offices. OSHA doesn’t have dental-specific standards. Instead, they apply the same safe workplace standards to dental offices as to any other industry. 

Think about the possible hazards in your office: infections from blood-borne pathogens and other bodily fluids, injuries from exposure to dental tools and instruments with sharp edges and points, exposure to radiation from imaging equipment, lung-damaging fine-dust particulates, hazardous chemicals used to clean and disinfect, biohazards from cleaning dental tools and equipment.

Here are a few of the required OSHA standards in dental offices:

  1. A Written Exposure Control Plan – OSHA regulators don’t expect perfection, but they do expect you to have a plan in case something goes wrong. This plan is a cornerstone of OSHA compliance for dental offices. 

    It’s often referred to as the OSHA manual for dental offices. It outlines a strategy specific to the individual office of how they will control exposure to all hazards employees face during their jobs. The plan should address items particular to each office (like whether you offer patients nitrous oxide or not), so you can’t just borrow another practice’s plan and expect to be covered.

    Every employee must have access to the exposure control plan. One employee must be named as the OSHA coordinator and will supervise the practice’s compliance with OSHA standards. 
  2. Bloodborne Pathogen Standard – This standard explicitly addresses the protection of employees from exposure to blood and other human biological hazards. Included within the written exposure control plan, the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard must consist of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), hepatitis B vaccinations, housekeeping, regulated wastes, and work practice controls that meet or exceed OSHA standards and guidelines. 
  3. Injury and Illness Incident Report – Better known as OSHA Form 300, the injury and illness incident report is a yearly log of any incidents that occur within the office. These records must be retained for at least five years and are something that any OSHA inspector will expect to see. Even if you have no incidents during a year, you must have records to indicate such.

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Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices – 3. Get on a Schedule

Your best patients come in every six months for cleanings and check-ups, so little problems don’t grow into big ones. Achieving and maintaining compliance with OSHA for dentists should be a yearly undertaking at a minimum.

Start with the obvious items. If you’ve changed processes, equipment, materials, or even something as simple as disinfectants, your exposure control plan may need to be updated. Ideally, you should update the exposure control plan any time something changes within your office that affects it.

Offices must have safety data sheets covering all potential chemical hazards, with classifications, risks, and recommended responses in case of exposure. Sometimes, this SDS information may change based on updates from regulators or other professionals, so be sure to check those at least once a year.

Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices – 4. Take the A(nnual) Training

Employees must receive annual OSHA training for dental offices on Bloodborne Pathogen Standards. Failure to do is one of the most commonly reported violations of OSHA dental regulations. It’s a good idea to schedule this training just after the annual review of the practice exposure control plan and incorporate any revisions so that all employees know how best to protect themselves and others in the workplace.

Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices – 5. Refer to a Specialist

You may be the best general dentist in the world, and your patients love and trust you. But there may be some procedures you’re not as comfortable performing. In that case, you won’t hesitate to make a referral to someone who specializes in that procedure. 

Why shouldn’t you do the same to help you comply with OSHA regulations for dental offices? The only problem is finding someone to help you build an OSHA compliance strategy that fulfills the law and works with your business.

As the American Dental Association’s only endorsed HIPAA compliance automation software provider, Compliancy Group profoundly understands dental professionals’ challenges and pain points. 

To help you meet the OSHA regulatory challenges, we are currently developing an OSHA for Dental Practices application that builds upon our industry-standard HIPAA compliance software, “The Guard.” Users will be able to effectively monitor, track and implement an effective OSHA compliance program in a way that is already familiar to them. 

This product is currently in development and should be released in the next few months. Until it becomes available, use our trusted resources like the OSHA Compliance Checklist to help your office prepare to meet your compliance goals.

Take the Oh-SH!! Out of OSHA for Dental Offices – Final Thoughts

Besides being government regulations that can result in fines for violations, HIPAA and OSHA compliance for dental offices have two big things in common. First, you must be able to prove what you’ve done. None of your work will count without clear documentation of your good-faith effort to comply with the regulations. 

Second, the only thing worse than doing poorly on an OSHA or HIPAA audit is doing nothing. Both agencies will issue citations and fines, but they usually first try to educate and assist practices in achieving compliance. Working with OSHA is always less painful than ignoring the agency.

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