The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency tasked with ensuring safety in the workplace. Every year, over 2.5 million workplace injuries and illnesses are reported, but we don't consider them very often in dental offices. When someone is injured at work, we tend to think of heavy industry or high-risk positions. But medical and dental offices have their own hazards that must be managed. Here are a few OSHA guidelines in dentistry that will help you keep workers safe and hazard-reporting compliant.

Breaking Down OSHA Guidelines in Dentistry

In 2020, illnesses and injury cases in the healthcare and social assistance sector jumped by 40%, with COVID-19 being the obvious culprit. That is why it is so important to reiterate the guidelines offices should follow as they return to full patient capacity.

In dental offices, the obvious concerns lie in bloodborne pathogens and infection protocols. Workers may also face exposure to hazardous materials like beryllium or nitrous oxide. Dental offices should adhere to OSHA’s “General Duty Clause” when establishing guidelines.

(a) Each employer — (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act. (b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Of course, that is an extremely broad explanation. For simplicity's sake, we can break it down into the following components specific to dentistry:

Table of OSHA guidelines: hazard recognition and communication, control and prevention, cleaning and disposal, equipment, monitoring, and training

One segment that is absent from the above list is OSHA records keeping. That is a topic in and of itself, which will be summarized below.

Records Keeping for OSHA Compliance in Dental Offices

While dental offices are considered partially exempt from many OSHA reporting standards, they are still required to report serious injuries or deaths within 24 hours and 8 hours, respectively. Serious injuries are defined as injuries that result in inpatient hospitalization or the loss of a limb or eye.

An online report submitted to the agency should include the following information:

  • Establishment name
  • Location of accident
  • Time of accident
  • Reportable event type (fatality/hospitalization, etc.)
  • Number of involved employees
  • Names of involved employees
  • A description of the event
  • Your contact person

While detailed reporting is usually only required in the event of serious injuries, it is still a good practice to record all reported injuries. Also, keep in mind that OSHA is not synonymous with workers' compensation.

Workers' compensation is the required financial protection you provide your workers in the event of workplace injuries. It is governed by a different agency than OSHA and will have its own set of reporting requirements that are usually far more stringent.

That's why it's a good policy to document all the OSHA guidelines in dentistry your practice follows. No practice wants to have a workplace injury, but following protocols and updating them regularly can help mitigate the risk.