Protect your business now
DENTAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS
Karson L. Carpenter, DDS
For a few moments, let’s go through a scenario in which
you imagine you are an OSHA inspector. As an inspector,
you are a professionally trained college graduate, likely with
a bachelor’s or advanced degree in industrial hygiene. Your
employer, the federal government, encourages you to take
continuing education courses geared toward making work-
places safer for employees. You truly believe that the busi-
nesses you visit should establish a culture of safety to
protect those whom they employ. Whether inspecting a
factory, a farm, a beauty salon, or a dental office, you expect
that that employer has made provisions to keep his or her
workers safe by following the requirements outlined by
You have been assigned to conduct an inspection at a
dental office due to an anonymous complaint from one of
its employees. The employee believes that the office is
unsafe and that the employer is not following OSHA safety
regulations. When you appear at the dental office front
desk, there is obvious confusion. Clearly, the office is now
in a state of panic. The receptionists quickly turn you over
to the office manager.
You start the conversation by asking to speak with the
individual in the office who is responsible for compliance.
The office manager does not seem to know, but she thinks
it is the doctor. You then ask to see the area where required
documents such as the OSHA poster and the chemical
inventory list are displayed. As it turns out, the practice
does not have such documents posted and the office manager does not know where they are.
Next, you ask to see the practice’s collection of safety data
sheets (SDS) and the written hazard communication plan.
They do not have these, but one of the other employees
thinks the dentist said they go to “some website” to get them.
Because you know that the employees are potentially
exposed to blood every day, you want to review the office’s
OSHA manual and its exposure control plan. The employees
say they don’t have one. You ask to see the records of train-
ing for OSHA compliance, knowing that it is required yearly
in every dental office in the United States. The office man-
ager thinks they went to some OSHA seminar “a couple of
years ago” and wonders if that counts.
At this point, you are feeling frustrated. Can anyone
blame you? You see willful neglect. The business owner
never even tried to protect the employees or get the office
in compliance. Further inspection reveals that there is no
eyewash and no training of employees on how to pick up
chemical spills. You do note, however, the presence of many
chemicals in the office such as disinfectants, cleaners, alcohol, bonding agents, etc. You find no familiarization with
the requirements of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS),
which is now required. You see a business owner with callous disregard for the safety of his employees.
Having been involved in numerous OSHA inspections of
dental offices across the United States, I see a common
element: OSHA inspectors are normally fair and reasonable!
In fact, they rarely look beyond the basic (and achievable)
requirements mentioned above. While this may surprise
you, it shouldn’t. OSHA inspectors are a lot like us: they
are well trained in their special areas, believe in what they
do, and feel they can make a difference.
As dentists, it doesn’t really matter if we believe in, accept, or like the fact that OSHA regulations apply to our
offices. What matters is that we are business owners and
have a business that we must protect. Consider compliance
with OSHA regulations as simply another form of liability
insurance that you must have to protect one of your most
valuable assets: your dental practice.
Author’s note: Contact your Henry Schein representative or visit
request in-office OSHA and infection control training
for you and your staff.
practices dentistry in
Michigan, and serves as
the president of
Partners. He is a graduate
of the University of
Michigan School of
Dentistry and has more
than 25 years’
educational programs to
bring dental and medical
facilities into compliance
OSHA, HIPAA, and
MANY DENTISTS are fearful of inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA). However, many do not understand that it is easy to mitigate
the risks of inspections. Like other areas of liability that dentists have in their
businesses, being proactive regarding OSHA always results in better outcomes.