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    How to know when it’s time to call OSHA

    Did you spot an OSHA violation at your practice? Here’s what to do.

    As a hygienist, you’re no doubt aware of the various OSHA standards for dental practices. Because of this, it’s easy for you to spot a violation that may be taking place at your office.

    Despite clinicians’ best efforts, OSHA violations can still happen. Often, these are simply mistakes made by a team member who may not be fully aware of the correct protocols and policies in place. But other times, these may happen when clinicians or team members are taking shortcuts and hoping no one will notice.

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    “Being negligent of OSHA guidelines violates veracity, in that we are ethically responsible to be truthful in our care,” says Katrina M. Sanders, RDH, BSDH, M.Ed, RF. “It also violates beneficence (‘do good’) and nonmaleficence (‘do no harm’) as they guide our decision-making when it comes to seeking the best interest of our patients. Finally, it violates the principle of societal trust, which directly affects the ways in which the public views dental providers. Every time a patient asks us ‘Is that sterile?’ our integrity is being questioned.”

    So, what should you do if you recognize an OSHA violation taking place at your practice? Read on to find out.

    Give the benefit of the doubt

    Unless a dentist or team member is blatantly breaking the rules on purpose, many times OSHA violations happen due to misinformation or a lack of training. Often, the “violator” doesn’t even know that he or she is doing something wrong.

    Contacting OSHAIf this is the case at your practice, then Kim Miller, RDH, BSDH, recommends making the violation known only to those involved in the “broken” process.

    “Not all team members are involved with all operations, so this first step should include only those involved,” she says. “A suggested approach is to say, ‘You may not be aware of the OSHA guidelines for sterilization. I am concerned. I have observed what I perceive to be a violation, may I share my concerns with you? Can we work together and come up with a solution?’”

    Go to management

    Speaking directly with the violator is a good way to bring the violation to the person’s attention, but what if no changes take place?

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    “If the issue is endangering the health and well-being of your patients, team or self, act immediately and go to your direct supervisor,” Miller says. “Many times this is an office manager or the doctor themselves. Either way, schedule a time to discuss this — don’t take them by surprise. Set up an appointment to discuss an OSHA concern. You have already put your concern out there to at least one other team member, so freely tell your office manager or dentist why you are asking for a meeting.”

    Miller advises putting the concern in writing and documenting the steps you’ve taken thus far to correct the issue.

    Up next: How to contact OSHA...

    Kristen Mott
    Kristen Mott is the associate editor for Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics.

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