Employers have responsibilities for the occupational safety of their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA
) is the U.S. governmental agency within the Department of Labor that has the mission to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. OSHA accomplishes this task by creating standards that address potential workplace hazards. The Agency was established as part of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.1
For dentistry, infectious disease and hazardous chemicals are examples of potential workplace hazards of concern; the following sections will address certain OSHA standards specific to dental offices. When there is no standard, the Agency may use OSHA’s “General Duty Clause” to guide regulatory enforcement for occupational exposures.
Training of employees occurs when the employee begins the job, and at least yearly thereafter. Employers should provide additional training when changes such as modification of tasks or procedures or institution of new tasks or procedures affect the employee's occupational exposure. The additional training may be limited to addressing the new exposures created.2
Engaging with the OSHA online resources (see Additional Resources section below) can improve knowledge of OSHA requirements and familiarity with standards facilitates compliance.
OSHA’s requirements are federal regulations and are found in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1910
). Thus, they are enforced by law, as opposed to guidelines and recommendations set forth by agencies and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ADA. OSHA standards related to dentistry
are available, and interpretations and directives of enforcement are available
. The ADA’s Center for Professional Success has developed resources to provide members with insight about implementing the OSHA requirement
While federal regulations such as OSHA provide a base level of regulations for compliance, local and state regulating authorities and agencies may have additional or specific requirements that exceed federal OSHA standards. For example, a state dental board may require compliance with the CDC’s Infection Control Guidelines for Dental Healthcare Settings
Furthermore, consideration of additional guidelines from other regulatory bodies, e.g., the CDC, may be prudent.
The following sections address many of the OSHA compliance issues that a dental practitioner might face, as well as other issues that may not be covered by OSHA, but that may be regulated by state or local laws or fall under other federal agency guidelines and recommendations.