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Do OSHA safety rules hinder more than help?

It’s a no-brainer that complying with OSHA prevents employers from suffering fines from a random inspection by OSHA or worse yet a complaint being filed by a disgruntled employee. Having a safe workplace shows workers that the employer cares about them and their safety. Also, worker’s compensation premiums continue to rise so preventing work-related injuries and illnesses helps keep those premiums at a minimum.

Hazard Communication continues to be the number one citation by OSHA in many industries. By now you’d think that employers would know that you must make Material Safety Data Sheets available to workers and train workers on the hazards of the chemicals they use. Unfortunately, that’s not always happening so employers are suffering the consequences with fines by OSHA and workers may be suffering from over-exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Infection control also ranks high on the list for OSHA citations in the dental industry. Why is practicing Standard Precautions such a difficult thing when it’s critical to protect all workers from handling items that are potentially infectious? Treating all incoming work as if it’s from an infectious patient is the only way to protect workers and prevent cross contamination. Do you receive prescriptions that indicate a patient has HIV or Hep B or C? This can be a violation of privacy if you have no need to know that information. When I so no need I mean are you going to use different manufacturing processes to product that device? If not, then you have no need to know that information. You should also consider if you’re the employer that once you have knowledge of that information, you could then be held liable if your workers take that information outside their workplace. The best practice is to use Standard Precautions in the handling of all incoming work from dental offices.

Other health and safety standards that are commonly cited by OSHA are access to emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, eyewash facilities, regulated air pressure on air guns, lack of personal protective equipment, and electrical issues such as blocked electrical panels, frayed wiring, and other fire hazards. Take a good look at your health and safety program to ensure that it covers all the hazards that workers could encounter in your facility. Then develop a training program to inform workers of how to protect themselves.

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