Health and safety in the workplace -- what a hot topic these days!
Maintaining a safe workplace is not only a best practice but a mandatory legal requirement for employers – including Dental Practices. Although health and safety laws are complex, they should be at the top of your priority list, especially now that COVID-19 brought on so many changes and has impacted our business, PPE, and IPC (just to name a few)
Now that inspections have begun, many practices are left wondering “Where Do I Begin?” and “What do I Need For our Health and Safety Program?” and “How Do I get Inspection Ready?”
Occupational Health & Safety 101
Let’s start at the very beginning-- What is Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)?
The main purpose of OHS is to protect WORKERS from health and safety hazards on the job. Our dental regulatory boards require all dental clinics to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act Regulations and Code.
It includes a separate manual with policies and procedures for keeping your team safe from biological, chemical, physical, and psychological hazards. Risk and hazard assessments must also be inspected annually.
Annual training is also required for your team, so they know how to keep themselves and their teammates safe in the workplace.
“I have an Infection Prevention Manual – doesn't that cover health & safety?”
OHS vs IPC
In Canada, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is administered by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and regulated by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
Canadian employees have the following basic rights as workers:
- The right to know what hazards are present in the workplace
- The right to participate in keeping your workplace healthy and safe
- The right to refuse work that you believe to be dangerous to yourself or your co-workers
What we also must be aware of is that our Infection Prevention and Control manual and documentation is not a comprehensive occupational health and safety program. IPC manuals and protocols are specifically for preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infections – they do not regulate and educate on:
- Biological hazards (including bio-terrorism)
- Chemical hazards
- Ergonomic hazards
- Physical hazards and,
- Psychological and/or psychosocial hazards
IPC manuals do not regulate workplace health and safety initiatives such as workplace violence prevention, return to work programs, emergency procedures requiring lockdown or evacuation, or information about occupational health and safety compliance.
While important for a dental practice, IPC manuals are not standard across every industry in Canada, which informs you of the specificity of the content towards preventing healthcare-associated infections.
OHS Inspections – Are You Ready?
On June 17th, the Alberta Dental Association and College announced that Occupation Health and Safety will be conducting random inspections of Alberta businesses - including Dental offices!
Are you Ready?
Do you have everything in place to be compliant?
Some of the items OHS will be looking for is your written policies and protocols for COVID-19 protocols including your exposure response plan which should outline your:
- Protocols for Safety
- Understanding the Risk of COVID-19
- What is your Contingency Plan?
- What are you Elimination Procedures?
- What are your Engineering Controls?
- What are your Administrative Controls?
- What are your PPE Policies & Workplace Requirements?
- What is your Cleaning & Disinfection Plan?
- What is your Procedure for Contact Tracing?
- Where are your required posters located?
This is a small glimpse inside what questions and information will be reviewed during an inspection. They will be looking for policies, training's, and training logs to ensure your team are aware of your OHS AND COVID-19 protocols.
The Risk of Being Non-Compliant
Employers in Canada must be aware of the risks that they take by not following OHS compliance standards at a provincial and federal level across the nation. If an employer does not follow their due diligence requirements, or is found to be negligent in an OHS regulated area, the consequences can be extensive from fines per violation, stop work orders, imprisonment, confiscation of practicing licenses, removal from provincial and federal dental associations, a creative sentence as deemed appropriate by the courts, or a combination of multiple aforementioned punishments.
The take home message here is not to be scared, but rather to stay well informed. OHS regulations are not difficult to follow, nor is the information hard to find or access. At the end of the day what the CCOHS is asking of employers is both common sense and logical in order to maintain the health and safety of all employees within the workplace. Do not be afraid of OHS – instead, embrace your commitment to doing everything that you can to maintain a healthy and safe workspace for your employees.
Need Help Getting Started?
As you can tell, there is so MUCH involved in Occupational Health & Safety and can take you up to 100+ hours to create on your own. Those hours could be better used elsewhere.
Why not offload the burden of HR to our team of HR professionals?
We are the premiere provider of Occupational Health & Safety for Dentists and have helped hundreds of practices develop, implement, and manage your HR & OHS.
CONTACT US today for more information