Lee SlatonBy Lee Slaton, Vice President of Healthcare; Smart Training

I’m a little late this year in reviewing 2020 from a compliance standpoint. That doesn’t mean it was any less exciting than others.

In reviewing OSHA’s enforcement database for 2020, it was surprisingly light considering we’re in the midst of a pandemic. Dental practices were on the receiving end of “only” 93 inspections. One thing remains constant though: dental practices are continuing to be cited for noncompliance with OSHA’s respiratory standard; and based on feedback I’m receiving from my contacts, inspections are only going to increase until practice owners get the message that this safety program isn’t optional.

Since early fall of 2020, I’ve used the dental practice that was fined over $24,000 for non-compliance with the respiratory standard as my “poster child.” I was hoping that by singing from the mountain top about this unfortunate practice’s penalty, it would get practice owners’ attention. Unfortunately, there appears to be quite a percentage of practice owners who still haven’t gotten the message. According to OSHA’s database, at least five other dental practices were cited and penalized in 2020 for lack of compliance with the respiratory standard. Additionally, based on a recent survey, I’m estimating approximately 45% of dental practices in Texas are still not complying with the respiratory standard. That’s what I’d call a target-rich environment for compliance inspectors.

If you’re a practice owner who has been hunkered down, trying to take care of your patients and struggling to keep your practice afloat to the exclusion of other requirements, I get it. But there is a reason why the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) has a rule requiring respirators (please note that a surgical mask is not a respirator) and why OSHA is turning into such a bear about non-compliance with the respiratory standard. COVID is extremely contagious, and the easiest way that scientists have found to transmit it is through aerosols. The CDC estimates some of the COVID variants now being discovered are twice as contagious as the original.

It’s time for some practice owners to get their ducks in a row before either an employee or patient gets sick from the practice’s lack of proper planning. Having the practice end up on the receiving end of an inspection by the TSBDE or OSHA isn’t a pleasant thought, either; and is certainly preventable.

Let’s be careful out there!

Since the pandemic began last February, Smart Training has been in overdrive assisting dental practices navigate the ensuing infection control and regulatory maze. The company created the first respiratory protection program in the country specifically for dental practices, along with four new training modules and two new plan documents to meet its clients’ needs. The company has assisted over 15,000 dental healthcare professionals with their compliance needs.