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Frequently Asked Questions | Dental Lab Health & Safety

Dental Lab Health & Safety FAQ's

What is OSHA’s new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for Respirable Silica?
  • Previous PEL was 100 μg/m3 (100 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air),
  • New PEL is 50 μg/m3 (50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • New requirement: Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3 (25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day.
What is OSHA’s new Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for Beryllium?
  • Previous PEL was 2.0 μg/m3 (2.0 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air
  • New PEL is 0.2 μg/m3 (.02 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • New requirement: Measure the amount of Beryllium that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of .01 μg/m3 (.01 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day.
  • Establishes a Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL) for beryllium of 2.0 μg/m3 over a 15-minute sampling period
What are the employer’s OSHA requirements for the Respirable Silica and Beryllium program development?
  • The employer must assess exposures, develop and implement written exposure control plans, and provide workers with training specific to beryllium and silica. Employers must offer medical examinations to certain exposed workers.
Does OSHA require a dress code for employees?

A dress code should be established based on identified workplace hazards. Employers try to develop dress codes using OSHA as a reason for certain attire. In most states an employer may set whatever dress code they desire, but you should consult with a local attorney to ensure that your dress code doesn’t infringe on any employment law in your state. OSHA requires you to identify all workplace hazards and if wearing shorts or open-toed shoes presents a safety hazard, then you have the right to require long pants and closed-toed shoes. You should review OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment Standard.

Should I require a dress code for sales people, consultants, or other people visiting the lab that enter/pass thru the production area?

It is your responsibility to protect visitors from hazards by use of warning signs, verbal warnings, and/or PPE, such as safety eyewear. If it is a technical person, such as trainer or consultant, who will be working in the lab, even if just for a day, then you should tell them the lab’s dress code to abide by when working onsite.

Which Exit signs meet OSHA specifications?

OSHA 1910.37 requires that all emergency exits be marked with lighted Exit signs. They must be clearly visible and illuminated to 5ft candles and be a distinctive color. The work EXIT must be at least 6” high and the width of the letters no less than ¾” wide. They can be battery powered, self luminescent or electroluminescent.

Is the Hepatitis B Vaccination mandatory?

It is mandatory that the employer offer the Hepatitis B vaccination to all Category I Task employees. The employer should coordinate with their company’s doctor or health dept to administer the vaccine and it should be offered at the expense of the employer and on company time (not on the employee’s own time nor at the employee’s cost). Mileage is also reimbursable to the employee if they have to drive to the doctor’s location for the vaccine. If a Category I Task employee refuses the vaccine then the employee needs to sign the Refusal of Vaccination form (they can always change their mind later). Other Category employees can be offered it but it is not required nor does it have to be provided/paid for by employer.

Is the person receiving the Hepatitis B vaccination allowed to use their personal physician to receive treatment?

According to the BBP standard the vaccinations must be administered by licensed health care professional. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all of the expenses incurred by the employee in the course of receiving the vaccinations are paid for by the employer. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the healthcare professional has a copy of the BBP standard, the details of the incident and any medical records applicable to the case.

Should employees who respond to the vaccine have a booster?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) does not recommend a booster for Hepatitis B for responders to the vaccine. The question here is whether or not the employee has had a titer test after he/she completed the 3 vaccine series to determine if he/she responded to the vaccine. If the employee knows he/she was a responder to the original series, then the answer is “no” the employee does not need a booster. If the employee does not know if he/she responded to the original series, then the employer should offer the complete series again. The only exception is if they are HepB positive, then the employer is exempt from offering the vaccine, but this must be documented, signed and put in the employee’s medical file. The vaccine should be administered as follows:

  • 3 shot series – spans 6 months
  • Titer drawn 1-2 months after 3rd shot
  • If positive, covered for life. No need to draw titers.
  • If negative, repeat the shot series, draw titer 1-2 months after third shot.

If still negative, the employee needs to be counseled by physician regarding what he/she will do if they have an exposure and that they must receive the HepB anti-globulin within 7 days of their exposure.

We are receiving bloody impressions from one of the dentist offices. How do I go about handling this situation?

There are several actions you can take. Besides the usual Standard Precautions, you can rinse the impression with water and a soft brush to remove the excess blood. Also you can gently scrub the impression with a mixture of stone and water or you can soak the impression in an enzyme cleaner. Always confer with the manufacturer of the impression material prior to taking any steps to clean the items prior to disinfection.

Is it okay to call the dentist office to talk to them about it?

You can contact the dentist and ask him what procedures he is taking to clean the impressions prior to shipment to the lab and ask him if he could at least rinse them with water prior to packaging.

Our chemicals are not properly labeled and our SDS sheets are a mess. How do we solve this problem?

The first step is to take an inventory of all items in the lab and then begin procuring SDSs for the items. SafeLink offers an SDS online access service that can help you with this task. After you have the MSDS, then you should begin labeling all containers that do not contain sufficient information to provide warnings of the health, flammability, reactivity, and target organs. You must determine a system to use for quick reference to the hazards such as the National Fire Protection Agency’s system (NFPA) or the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS). These systems use numbers to indicate the severity of the hazard which makes it much easier for workers to have immediate warnings at their work area. Another labeling system is the GHS Pictograms. OSHA requires the Pictogram to have a red border to make it more visible. The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) requires manufacturers to use Pictograms on their product labels so you may begin to notice them on products you use in your business and on the product’s SDS.

Begin labeling with secondary containers, i.e. those products that have been removed from the original container and placed in a secondary container. You may want to begin with the hazardous items such as acids, porcelain, metals, cleaning agents, investment, gypsum, etc. If a drawer contains one product, then you could label the drawer. Don’t forget to label the bins used for storing the plaster or gypsum or investment.

Does OSHA require lathes to have a guard or shield?

OSHA requires all rotary equipment to have guards or shields. Most eye injuries in dental labs seem to occur in the model department. Remember that you don’t want to create a greater hazard by installing a shield, for instance, on the model trimmer if it impairs the worker from seeing well enough to perform the task. If you decide not to install the guard, then you need to have the workers wear close fitting safety eyewear or goggles.

What is the difference between lockout and tagout?

Lockout is the placement of an energy isolation device on a piece of equipment to render it inoperable. A lockout uses a lock to hold an energy isolation device in a safe position and prevents the energization of the machine or equipment. Tagout is when a tag is placed on a piece of equipment to indicate that the equipment being controlled may not be operated until the tagout device is removed.

We did some air monitoring and we were found to be in the acceptable range...

Therefore, we setup a voluntary system for wearing the dust mask and/or respirator. If the associate wishes to wear the mask do we have to have a medical evaluation and fit test performed before they can wear it?

No, you don't have to do the fit testing and medical questionnaire when it's voluntary. You do need to give a copy of Appendix D to each of your employees who work with hazardous chemicals but use of the respirator is optional.

What should be included in the First Aid kit?

You just need to have the items to treat whatever type of injury you are able to treat such as a minor cut or burn or to stop a bleed prior to getting the employee to an emergency facility to treat them. Remember that you shouldn’t provide any oral medications unless you have a nurse or doctor on staff.

What type of eyewash facility should I install?

We recommend a stand-alone model and one that is a single action. You would need to find a location central to everyone and a place where it can be plumbed to water or purchase one of the portable eyewash stations that is self-contained. The eyewash must deliver 15 minutes of continuous flushing, be within 10 sec walking distance (approx 55ft) from the hazard and have an unobstructed path of movement.

Are personal eyewashes acceptable?

ANSI does NOT approve the personal eyewashes because they cannot deliver 15 minutes of continuous flow to both eyes. They are single use only and have a limited shelf life. They are not a substitute for plumbed or portable eyewashes.

Can employees eat and/or drink in work areas? Is it an OSHA requirement?

It is an OSHA requirement under the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard that no consumable products are allowed in risk areas. We have defined those areas in the dental lab as Receiving, Denture Repair, Die Trim when clinically poured models are trimmed, and shade taking.

It is also a requirement under the Hazard Communication Standard that the employer provide a Safety Data Shee to employees for hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. If the SDS indicates that ingestion is a route of entry, then no consumable products can be allowed in the areas where the chemical is used. Remember that eye drops, lip balm, etc. are consumable items, too.

We have found the best practice to be not to allow any consumable products in risk areas and production areas unless the employer can determine that there are no hazardous chemicals used in a particular area. To make it consistent throughout the work areas, we recommend eating, drinking, or use of consumable products be limited to the break room. Depending on the tasks performed in the administrative area, consumable products may be allowed in that area.

Are you aware of any mugs out there that are OSHA approved for lab use?

OSHA relies on other agencies to approve personal protective equipment to protect the worker from recognized hazards. They look to other agencies like ANSI and NIOSH to test personal protective equipment and equipment to ensure that it provides the protection that is intended. We are not aware of any testing that approves the use of a certain type of container in areas where hazardous chemicals are used.

Does OSHA require employers to have a safety committee?

Some states require a safety committee. If you’re in the states of CA, MN, WA or NC you should check the state plan to determine if you need a formal safety committee. We always recommend a safety committee to provide a way for employees to have their safety concerns addressed.

How long do we need to keep our training records / medical records once an employee stops working for our laboratory?

Training Records: OSHA requires that you retain bloodborne pathogen training records for employees for three years. Check Federal and State Employment laws for Retention of other Employee records.

Medical Records: OSHA requires that you retain Medical Records for length of employment plus 30 years.

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