Text supplied by Lucy Walsh
The first step toward workplace safety involves identifying existing or potential hazards. In particular, sharps injuries are a common, potentially lethal risk in dental practices. The most common diseases transmitted via sharps injuries include bloodborne viruses, such as, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Employees are also at risk of overexposure to radiation from X-ray machines and carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive hand motions, as well as back injuries from sitting or standing over patients for prolonged periods. Once you’re aware of the risks to watch out for, it’s important to create formal policies and procedures to prevent them.
At the bare minimum, you must require all staff to abide by the safety protocols laid out in employee handbooks and training manuals.
Infection control procedures are vital for minimizing risk of transmitting infection, and must be followed regardless of whether the patient is infected with or is the carrier of an infectious disease. Protective clothing (including gloves, eye protection, masks, and gowns) must be worn during cosmetic and clinical procedures and cleaning and sterilizing instruments.
Disposable dental tools and needles should never be reused on another patient. After each patient, disposable gloves must be disposed of, and the dental team must wash their hands and put on a new pair of gloves.
While these steps can prevent transmission of diseases, unfortunately accidents can happen. If an employee is poked by a needle or used instrument, they must be medically tested immediately.