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

According to statistics obtained recently from OSHA, most complaints against dental practices received by OSHA during the Covid-19 pandemic were, unsurprisingly, Covid-related. Let’s take a quick dive into the data for 2019 through 2022 and see what we can learn.

  • Texas dentists ranked #5 in the country for the number of complaints received.
  • Approximately 20% of the complaints received nationwide resulted in inspections.
  • A Texas practice was in the top 10 nationwide for number of complaints received (five).

This was all new information for me. In the past, when practice owners would ask me the odds of receiving an OSHA investigation, based on the statistics I had at hand, I could tell them they were about the same as receiving an IRS audit.

What I didn’t know was the number of complaints—and the relative percentage of inspections resulting from complaints. The odds of receiving an OSHA complaint are much higher than those of receiving an IRS audit.

For the past ten years or so, I’ve preached about the “camel’s nose under the tent” phenomenon—which is that a complaint received by OSHA—no matter its seriousness—generates an investigation. Sometimes the complaint is handled with 5–10 hours of work by the business owner to ensure any valid issues relating to the complaint are resolved and then submitting the proper written response to OSHA. Other times, the seriousness of the complaint results in an inspection of the business, in which case all bets are off; anything and everything the investigator observes is fair game.

Here’s the long and short of it: properly managed, dental practices shouldn’t even be on OSHA’s radar. Dental clinicians are taught from day one the proper techniques to protect the health and wellbeing of staff and patients. The sticky wicket here is ensuring that all of those proper techniques and standard operating procedures are followed each and every day for each and every patient and staff. Unfortunately, practicing good exposure and infection control isn’t something you can do “most” of the time.

Complaints stemming from grudges and the like aside, remember that clinicians and purchasers of health care alike are much more sophisticated and educated than they were even ten years ago. Practice owners need to be aware their actions (or inactions) are constantly being judged and compared—by staff and patients. If they fall short, people notice. I was a business owner for over 20 years and was taught every complaint I received represented another 10-20 complaints clients had but didn’t care to share.

Now that we have this information, over the next few months, we’re going to go down the rabbit hole on several of the more interesting complaints from around the country and how they were resolved. We’ll review complaints that were resolved with inspections and complaints that resulted in inspections and citations. I think it’s going to be interesting, and I’m confident there will be several great takeaways and “aha” moments along the way. Stay tuned!

If you’re unsure of your practice’s compliance status, contact Smart Training. Smart Training has assisted over 15,000 dental healthcare professionals with their compliance needs.