The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is keenly aware of the need to protect employees of dental practices returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 11, 2020, OSHA issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect dental industry workers from exposure to COVID-19. OSHA’s alert is consistent with the CDC’s guidelines, which we discuss in our prior post.
Although many states are not yet permitting dental practices to reopen, OSHA’s alert can assist dental practices in creating a plan for safely reopening. OSHA identified measures that can help protect dental practitioners, staff, and patients including:
- Encourage workers to stay home if sick;
- Maximize use of telemedicine for non-emergency consultations, and prioritize urgent and emergency procedures;
- Install physical barriers or partitions between patient treatment areas;
- Provide adequate ventilation and airflow in patient treatment areas so that air moves away from staff work areas;
- Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment with hospital-grade, Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against COVID-19;
- Minimize the number of staff present when aerosol-generating procedures are performed, and ensure staff who are present are appropriately protected;
- Provide appropriate personal protective equipment, such as eye goggles, face shields and N95 respirators, as necessary to protect dental practitioners and support personnel; and
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
In addition, dental practices should also be aware of state specific guidelines. For instance, in New York all businesses will be required to do the following in advance of opening:
- Adjust workplace hours and shift design as necessary to reduce density in the workplace;
- Enact social distancing protocols;
- Restrict non-essential travel for employees;
- Require all employees and customers to wear masks if in frequent contact with others;
- Implement strict cleaning and sanitation standards;
- Enact a continuous health screening process for individuals to enter the workplace;
- Continue tracing, tracking and reporting of cases; and
- Develop liability processes.
If you have any questions regarding the re-opening of your practice, please do not hesitate to contact us.