People customarily associate OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) with workplace rules at construction sites, chemical plants, and factories, however, OSHA compliance is also critically important for dental practices. In the event of an OSHA inspection, dentists must have a detailed and robust safety program in place. Ultimately, the best way to avoid violations and protect your business is to consult an attorney who represents dental professionals.
What happens during an OSHA inspection?
Although an OSHA inspection can be nerve-wracking, it helps to remain calm. The inspector is not there to play “gotcha” and is only doing his/her job. So your team must be prepared and be professional in their interactions with the inspector. Additionally, it is helpful to seek legal counsel, particularly if your dental practice has not experienced an inspection or you have concerns about potential violations.
If the inspector arrives unannounced, which is common, be sure to ask for identification. While you have a right to refuse the investigation if the inspector arrives without a warrant, and OSHA can be compelled to provide one, this could arouse suspicion about possible violations and set the wrong tone for the investigation.
An OSHA inspection starts with an opening conference during which the inspector should explain the reason for and scope of the investigation. If possible, the conference should be conducted in a space out of view from the entire facility and with no access to other employees. While you should be wary of what and who is in plain sight of the inspector, he or she will ask to inspect areas that are more likely to have safety violations as well as any equipment related to a specific complaint.
Nonetheless, anything or anyone that is in the inspector’s plain view during the investigation is subject to further inspection or an interview, which could expand the scope of the investigation and potentially uncover additional violations. Although there are rules governing what an OSHA inspector is entitled to see and who the inspector can interview, having the advice of an attorney during an inspection will ensure that your rights are protected.
How can my dental practice prepare for an OSHA inspection?
The best way to make sure your office is in compliance with OSHA regulations is to have well-conceived safety procedures and training programs in place. Because you may not have advance notice of an OSHA inspection, you should ensure that all OSHA records are up to date and accurate—an inspector will likely request to review these. If you are unsure of the recordkeeping requirements or whether your training and program is sufficient, consult an experienced dental compliance consultant. While inspections are a serious matter, having proper legal representation can make the process easier to handle.