These days, protecting your dental practice means many different things. The current COVID era in which we live has imposed a veritable cornucopia of new requirements, duties and obligations on dental practices, including those imposed by OSHA and OSHA investigations. If your dental practice finds itself the subject of an upcoming or pending OSHA Investigation, you must prepare! For one thing, you need to ensure that you are up to date on the latest guidance from all relevant authorities. These authorities include the CDC, individual State Dental Boards, and OSHA handbooks. Ensuring continued compliance is especially important as science continues to reveal more information regarding COVID-19. This post will discuss how OSHA is treating COVID precautions and how to comply with the most recent updates.
Hierarchy of OSHA Controls
The first framework to keep in mind generally is how OSHA treats the hierarchy of controls regarding exposure. They have provided a list of what they consider the most to least effective when preventing exposure and the rest of their guidance falls somewhere within those bounds.
- Elimination: This is the act of physically removing any hazard whatsoever and was the initial route required by most states during statewide quarantines when dental offices were required to close.
- Substitution of the Hazard: This is largely unavailable during a pandemic of this kind.
- Engineering Controls: includes offices engineering how patients interact with each other by providing guidelines for cleaning between visits or having patients wait in their cars rather than the lobby.
- Administrative Controls: This involves changing the ways which your employees work. Limiting the workstation proximity, closing employee common spaces, and otherwise restricting interpersonal exposure.
- Personal Protective Equipment: OSHA suggests upping your office policies regarding PPE. Under 29 CFR § 1910.134(d), they have the ability to issue citations if your office has not shown a good faith effort to obtain respirators suitable for the dental setting.
Latest Compliance Updates
Additionally, OSHA will investigate to determine that your office is appropriately identifying and complying with updates in preventative measures. Some of these most recent updates from the CDC include the definition of fever lowered from 100.4 to 100.0. Dental professionals need to make sure to wear eye protection at all times, not only when splashes and sprays are anticipated. Recently, CDC has removed the recommendation of 15-minute wait time before room cleaning but the ADA still supports this practice as over-precaution will not be reason for citation. Additionally, the time period for informing a patient if they develop symptoms following the visit has been decreased to two days instead of fourteen.
Bear in mind that this post deals with recent updates only and by no means represents an exhaustive or comprehensive outlook on preparing for an OSHA investigation. Additionally, there are a number of other recent updates not addressed in this post. Protecting your dental practice is an ongoing challenge. Practice managers and operators must be vigilant and ensure that someone in your office is dedicated to watching for ongoing updates to ensure compliance as practices reopen in full and situations, requirements and best practices change and develop.
The information herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The information is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter. The above is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Consult your attorney with questions.