OSHA and Infection Control Training Requirements—Roots of Wisdom

Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has issued numerous complex and detailed rules and standards that apply to, and regulate, dental practices. Although many dental and specialty practices believe they are OSHA compliant, we often see that their training and procedures fall short of the standards set forth by law (even when our clients hire an outside vendor to provide these services), thereby opening up the practice to liability.

It is important that you as the practice owner or licensee be aware of OSHA’s general training requirements, and consult with legal counsel to ensure that you and your practice are actually compliant with state and federal law. While OSHA compliance is a broad topic with a huge range of requirements, below we provide you with a high‑level overview of key standards related to the content and delivery of your OSHA training requirements.

Training Content

Dental health care personnel (“DHCP”) have the potential to encounter dangerous and infectious situations on a routine basis. Accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has expressly recognized that dental practices must provide and participate in regular employee trainings, including trainings at least once a year, as well as any time a DHCP begins performing new job obligations.

The trainings that you provide must be tailored to the individual job obligations of each DHCP. This may mean providing separate trainings for different types of DHCP, or dedicating different portions of your training to certain DHCP. For example, DHCP who are responsible for cleaning and sterilizing dental tools and surfaces must receive specific training related to techniques designed to prevent cross‑contamination and achieve effective sterilization. These individuals should also receive training on how to identify contaminated surfaces or tools, and how to perform OSHA-compliant quality control checks.

Similarly, DHCP who are subject to occupational exposure (i.e. non-office/administrative staff) should receive training related to infection control procedures and post-exposure management. This training should include, among other items, information related to exposure risks, management of work‑related illness and/or injuries, and prevention strategies and infection-control policies and procedures. Although staff who are isolated from occupational exposure are not always required to participate in training related to these topics, including them in such trainings may increase the effectiveness and proper implementation of safety procedures on a practice‑wide basis.

Information Delivery

Along with focusing on the content of your trainings, you must also ensure that the information provided is presented in a way that is understandable. Clearly written policies and training materials should be used to ensure that your team understands the information, and is following safety procedures and protocol on a consistent, efficient, and effective basis. CDC guidance related to DHCP further states that the content and vocabulary used in educational training materials should be tailored to the individual needs of each person receiving training, considering the literacy, language, and level of education of each individual.

In Minnesota, penalties for willful OSHA violations—including the willful and knowing failure to properly train staff and employees—can reach up to $70,000 per violation. Accordingly, it is imperative that you ensure your training procedures are actually compliant with state and federal OSHA requirements. You should not assume that your training procedures are compliant simply because you are contracting with an outside vendor to provide them. In fact, we have had clients who have been subject of Board of Dentistry investigations and threats of enforcement when they have relied on certain of these outside vendors as their sole source of training. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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