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    5 steps to take after failing an OSHA inspection

    Failing an OSHA inspection can be scary, but taking steps to correct the mistakes and move forward can make a world of difference.

    Getting pulled over by the police. An IRS audit. An OSHA inspection.

    None of these interactions with authority figures is a welcome event. At best, it can waste some of your precious time. At worst, it can cost you some money — maybe even a lot of money.

    For the dental practice, failing an OSHA inspection, while serious, isn’t the end of the world. How one responds to that failure can be an opportunity to address important safety issues, and it may be an opportunity to learn something in the process.

    Don't panic

    An inspection can be upsetting, but it’s also a call to action. It’s important to not panic or to go into denial about possible deficiencies, advises Peggy Spitzer, a dental hygienist and clinical education manager for Certol International.

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    Try not to panic,” she says. “Try to understand why you got the complaint and just see what actually may have happened to trigger this complaint. They are sometimes frivolous, but most of the time there is some truth; there’s some real problem. This might be a little too much to expect of someone who’s angry and frightened and isn’t going to think about it as the call to action that it really is."

    While the initial reaction to an inspection failure is likely an element of panic and dread, there’s an opportunity to realize something positive, assuming the right mindset is present.

    “Maybe the practice owner can’t hear that right away,” Spitzer says. “But maybe somebody on the staff with formal training could help the practice owner with proactive and positive input. What would be proactive at that point? It’s a bit more of a positive way to move forward than just, ‘I’m fighting this violation.’ If I were the business owner, I’d probably react very negatively to them coming into my business and telling me, ‘You can’t do things this way.’ But, there really is some sunlight here. If you can get someone to listen and say, ‘Hey, maybe there are some things that we can be doing to improve the practice.’”

    Understand the violations

    Understanding the violations and taking the appropriate corrective actions are, obviously, necessary steps.

    “The first step is for the employer to assess the alleged hazard and take actions within the time frame indicated by OSHA to correct them, if they are legitimate,” says Mary Borg-Bartlett, president of SafeLink Consulting. “Most of the inspections of dental practices are a result of a complaint filed by a disgruntled employee or former employee and may or may not be a hazard. If the OSHA inspection resulted in a citation, or even penalties, then the practice must abate (correct) the issues and report those corrections to OSHA within a certain period of time.”The practice should learn from the inspection and not make the same mistakes again.

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    Failing OSHA inspection“After the hazards are corrected, then it’s critical that the practice ensures that those issues remain corrected and don’t occur again,” Borg-Bartlett says. “OSHA does not reinspect in every instance but conducts random inspections as follow-up to verify that the employer actually abated the hazard. If it is found that the employer did not abate the hazard — and/or abated it but has allowed the hazard to reoccur — then serious penalties can be levied on the employer.”

    Underscoring the gravity of violations is just how much penalties can cost. OSHA’s adjusted civil penalties proposed after Jan. 2, 2018 are as follows:

    • 1903.15(d)(1

    • Willful violation: The penalty per willful violation under section 17(a) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 666(a), shall not be less than $9,239 and shall not exceed $129,336.

    • 1903.15(d)(2)
    • Repeated violation: The penalty per repeated violation under section 17(a) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 666(a), shall not exceed $129,336.
    • 1903.15(d)(3)
    • Serious violation: The penalty for a serious violation under section 17(b) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 666(b), shall not exceed $12,934.
    • 1903.15(d)(4)
    • Other-than-serious violation: The penalty for an other-than-serious violation under section 17(c) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 666(c), shall not exceed $12,934.
    • 1903.15(d)(5)
    • Failure to correct violation: The penalty for a failure to correct a violation under section 17(d) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 666(d), shall not exceed $12,934 per day.
    • 1903.15(d)(6)
    • Posting requirement violation: The penalty for a posting requirement violation under section 17(i) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. 666(i), shall not exceed $12,934.

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    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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