Workers in dentistry face exposure to common and industry-specific health hazards in the places of their employment. While performing their role-related tasks and functions, the type and degree of exposure to risks are dependent upon clients and services. Identifying these hazards and suitable control measures for safety are key to ensuring health and safety in the workplace.
Despite technological advancements and improvements in workplace safety programs, occupational risks remain within this profession. Occupational health hazards in dentistry may be physical, psychological, chemical, or biological-based via specific tasks. Let’s examine closer the top hazards dental professionals encounter for enhanced awareness and prevention strategy development.
Injury Hazards: Musculoskeletal Risks
Physical hazards are prevalent from common dentistry procedures such as standing, bending, or leaning over patients. These industry-specific procedures include postural positions that tend to increase motions that twist and contort the body. This type of daily posture applies greater pressure to the intervertebral disk. Resulting in lower back pain, this postural stress also has the potential to affect the upper limb and neck nerves.
To reduce pressure and avoid over-straining the back and vertebrae, dental professionals should regularly shift positions and switch between ergonomic standing or sitting. Actively controlling these movements and the height of a patient’s chair minimizes stressful situations on the spine. Slips and falls, repetitive motions, and vibrations are also common physical hazards to watch out for.
Biological Hazards: Instruments, Needles, and Infections
Risks from sharps, dental instruments, and biological agents are other key occupational health hazards in dentistry. These biological risk factors involve blood and saliva that could cause harmful or life-threatening infections. Dental employees must handle all equipment with care and pass tools and instruments safely when working on a patient.
To avoid the spread of contamination or diseases, routine practices such as regular handwashing and proper use of PPE are the best strategies for employee protection. Compliance with prevention and control procedures, such as proper disposal and attentiveness to good housekeeping practices, will reduce exposure to these common risks.
Chemical Hazards: Materials, Medicines, and Disinfectants
Chemical factors similarly play a major role in workplace health and safety. While dental materials are meant for the care and protection of patients, they can be equally harmful to employees. Latex gloves, detergents, solvents, and processing materials can cause allergic reactions. Chemical cleaners and disinfectants can burn, injure, or cause hypersensitive reactions. For this reason, dental practitioners should regularly ensure their prevention practices and control strategies for such occupational hazards are up to date with OSHA standards.
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