Like all workplaces, you must complete specific training before your first official day in the dental field. While some of the training in a dental practice is specific to the profession, the general standard remains the same: to engage in safe behavior during work hours to minimize worker and patient injuries.
Some training, such as OSHA courses, require continuous refreshers that can supplement workplace safety knowledge to ensure that employers and staff follow the same guidelines. If you're new to the profession or you’re thinking about opening a private dental practice, you should understand OSHA and its purpose in the workplace. Ahead, learn what to expect before beginning dental OSHA training courses so you can be part of a safe work environment.
What Is OSHA and Why It’s Important
Before taking part in potentially hazardous procedures, individuals must undergo the proper safety training to decrease their risks in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA, is an agency that works to provide safety guidelines to ensure a safe work environment for all workers.
Before implementing the OSH Act in 1971, occupational hazards were a significant threat to worker health. After the act’s implementation, the number of incidents decreased by 65 percent. Throughout its 50-year history, OSHA had educated employers and their staff on safety protocols that mitigate the number of workplace injuries and fatalities.
Other accomplishments include adopting the first health standard nationwide and enabling whistleblower laws that protect employees from employer retaliation upon informing the authorities about illegal or unsafe behaviors. OSHA has also established training institutes and grant programs to continue bringing awareness to occupation hazards and health.
Hazards in Dental Offices
While the field of dentistry currently doesn’t have specific OSHA standards to follow, dental professionals must consider that various hazards in the workplace could potentially pose a threat to their well-being. These hazards include:
- • Bloodborne Pathogen Hazards: Microorganisms in the blood that are responsible for diseases in humans. You might expose yourself to these pathogens through needles and cuts from other sharp tools. All dental practices must have a sharps container to dispose of used syringes safely. Staff should also wear gloves as a layer of protection.
- • Chemical Agents: Chemical hazards arise from their use in medical applications. Medicaments and other materials that professionals use in dentistry can cause skin reactions and allergies. These chemicals include anesthetic gases and mixtures containing mercury, latex, and disinfectants.
- • Psychological Hazards: Many dental professionals face stress as a direct result of their work. Some causes of work-related stress include administration of anesthesia, running behind schedule, work-life balance, and patient dissatisfaction with a service.
OSHA COVID-19 Preparedness Guidance
Given the current state of the pandemic affecting the nation, there are additional OSHA standards for dental practitioners to maintain in the workplace to ensure safety for both workers and patients. The following tips can aid in limiting the exposure to the coronavirus:
- • Encourage staff to stay at home if they feel sick.
- • Install partitions or physical barriers to separate patients in treatment areas.
- • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and tools used for dental exams and procedures with Environmental Protection Agency-approved (EPA) cleaning solutions that fight against the virus.
- • Provide sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face shields, eye goggles, and N95 masks to protect all staff.
- •Maximize the use of telemedicine for nonemergency consultations. Try to restrict in-person appointments to people experiencing emergencies or urgent situations.
- • Have ventilation in patient treatment zones that promote airflow away from staff work areas.
- • Consider having the minimum number of staff present during aerosol-producing practices and provide staff with proper protective equipment.
- • Encourage staff to report health and safety concerns to the appropriate party.
OSHA Training Course Specifics
To ensure safety compliance, employers must implement dental OSHA training every year. Employers must compensate for employee training whether it’s during or after work hours and keep records of completion. You can expect the following topics to be covered through the course:
- • General OSHA information
- • Recordkeeping practices
- • Bloodborne pathogens expectations and handling
- • Infection control in dental practices
- • The difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation in dentistry
- • Hazard communication practices
- • Electrical safety practices
- • Fire safety expectations and procedures
- • First aid
- • Violence in the workplace
A final test should be assessed to ensure a sufficient level of understanding of the material. Once dental professionals complete and pass this evaluation, they will receive a certificate, signaling completion of the course and full training. Employers must keep these certificates as evidence of OSHA compliance.
What To Do Next
Once courses and assessments are complete, be sure to keep a record of certificates. To enforce an OSHA-compliant workplace, survey your work environment for additional hazards. Once you’ve done so, you can continue to reinforce standards through regular staff meetings to help refresh staff on OSHA safety measures.
While employers and their employees will work together to mitigate injuries, sometimes, incidents can happen. In these cases, remember to follow incident response steps as directed in your OSHA Documentation Kit.
All dental practices and employers in different fields must post an OSHA poster in a visible location for all employees to notice. Make sure everyone can read it easily.
There are many things to expect before beginning OSHA dental courses; however, it's nothing to fear. Many of these standards and expectations ensure a safe work environment with the idea of placing workers' well-being first. By providing awareness, you'll know how to spot a workplace hazard and learn how to report and take care of the issue properly.
For additional OSHA-related content and safety manual kits, browse our collection on Gamma Compliance Solutions. We strive to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all employers and their employees.