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    OSHA violations that you’re making – and don’t even realize

    While dental practices do their best to stay in OSHA’s good graces, these are some common mistakes that offices can make.


    You’re using PPE wrong

    Everyone knows just how important personal protective equipment (PPE) is, but there are a surprising number of practices using PPE incorrectly — each one a potential OSHA violation.

    “One of the biggest issues with PPE is with protective eyewear,” Canham says. “Protective eyewear is not being utilized by the clinical team members and sometimes not even by the dentists themselves. And what I mean by protective eyewear is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rated protective eyewear. Regular prescription glasses do not meet this standard as protective eyewear.

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    “Today, many people wear the large-style of glasses, where they almost look like the Elvis Costello glasses with the big, bulky frames and huge lenses,” she continues. “I think people are feeling confident that those large lenses are protective, but it’s not enough. Eye injuries still occur because they don’t have side shields and a brow guard. While the lenses may be thick enough, it doesn’t necessarily protect them from what comes in underneath the lenses, between the cheekbones and the bottom rim of their glasses. A mistake that I find is a lot of employers are allowing their employees to wear prescription glasses that are not protective eyewear don’t provide enough protection against splashes and spatters that occur.”

    Clinicians must also be cognizant of mistakenly wearing scrub tops and considering them to be barrier attire.

    “If a clinician becomes warm or hot with a lab coat on, they may take it off, thinking that a scrub top is appropriate barrier attire,” Eklund says. “A scrub top really wouldn’t meet the requirements for barrier attire in dentistry. The scrub has short sleeves and must be removed by inverting over the head. Barrier attire should be able to be removed by unbuttoning, unzipping, untying, or unclasping from the front or the back, never over the head.”

    Barrier attire provides specific protections that simple scrub tops don’t.

    “Inverting the scrub top over your head to remove poses a risk of contamination exposure to the nose, mouth and eyes,” Eklund explains. “Plus, in looking at the type of exposure you have in dentistry to spatter, you want something covering your skin and underclothing. The design should be long sleeve, high neck, longer length, and needs to be removed from the front or the back.”

    Facemasks are another routinely misused item of PPE.

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    “The surgical facemask has to be worn over the nose and over the mouth,” Canham says. “Dental providers who are wearing their mask below the nose are not protected, and if they are wearing it below their chin, they are actually spreading more contamination to their neck and chin area. The mask is considered to be a single-use, disposable item. In most common dental settings, it is to protect the employee or protect the wearer. It’s not really to protect the patient unless you are performing invasive surgical procedures. Then the mask plays a part in protecting the patient from what the healthcare provider might be exhaling. If the mask is not being worn properly it’s not doing its job as a filter.”

    It isn’t just how masks are worn that must be taken into consideration. Clinicians must also understand that masks are used to filter particles and bacteria and provide protection from moisture for the wearer.

    “If you have a high-moisture environment, like when a high-speed handpiece or an ultrasonic scaler is going, then you’re exposed to more moisture and you should have a higher-level mask,” Canham says.

    Ultimately, OSHA exists to protect employees, not punish employers. By looking out for these common missteps, you’re not only protecting your practice from running afoul of OSHA but also protecting your employees from harm.

    Canham is offering a complimentary copy of an Exposure Incident Protocol by sending an email to [email protected].

    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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