Ten OSHA Tips to Keep Your Office on Track and Out of the News

Several years ago, the news of the Tulsa, Oklahoma oral surgeon treating patients under unsanitary and unsafe conditions struck horror into the hearts of dental practitioners and patients across the country.  Can you imagine having to send letters to 7,000 patients warning them of a health hazard that was discovered in your practice and advising them to seek testing? 

That surgeon’s practice was fraught with problems ranging from delegating duties to unqualified staff to unsanitary infection prevention practices.  Let’s ensure that doesn’t happen to you by revisiting some basic OSHA and infection prevention guidelines!  Here are ten tips and reminders to share with the team:

  1. OSHA requires annual training, which means every 365 days.  At your next OSHA staff training session, shake it up!  If you don’t already use the services of an experienced, knowledgeable OSHA/Infection Prevention consultant, considering doing so or, at the very least, invite one or more infection prevention product specialists to provide a lunch ‘n learn.  
  2. Don’t forget to train new employees before their initial assignment to tasks where there is exposure to blood and bodily fluids.  
  3. Rely on evidence-based resources.  Download a copy of the CDC guidelines for dentistry and consider purchasing the CDC Guidelines: From Policy to Practice by OSAP
  4. Ensure you have a current copy of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard
  5. Does your office have an appointed Safety/OSHA coordinator?  If so, are you sure he/she is doing what they are supposed to do?  Have you afforded him/her adequate training and time to serve as your Safety/OSHA coordinator?  Relying on their past experience may not translate into success for your practice.  Just because he/she is doing things the way they did it in their last office, doesn’t mean it’s correct. It may not be! Remember, every office is different — and this includes sterilization processes, equipment and products used. 
  6. As healthcare professionals, it’s important to use healthcare-grade products in your office.  While it may seem cost-effective to use over-the-counter soap and hand sanitizer in patient care areas, that is not what the guidelines recommend — and it sends the wrong message to your patients when they walk into your nicely furnished office and spy hand sanitizer from the grocery store. 
  7. Open sterile instruments in front of patients and don’t reuse single-use items, such as sterilization pouches, high-speed evacuators, anesthetic carpules, containers of sterile water, etc. 
  8. Create a culture of safety in your practice by practicing what you preach.  As the office manager, show you care by keeping infection prevention a high priority. 
  9. Use this short OSHA checklist to be sure your office is on track. 
  10. Lastly, refer to your state dental board for additional state-specific infection control guidelines. 

Having a safe environment creates a win-win for staff and patients alike.  Be proud to showcase your high standards for regulatory compliance and infection prevention.