What Dentists Need to Know About The New Globally Harmonized System

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Since dentists deal with potentially hazardous chemicals every day, it’s important they recognize the potential hazards their practices face – and know how to avoid them. As such, dental offices and clinics are required to comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard through the use of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for places of employment in which hazardous materials are stored, used and disposed.

Dentists are then required to be able to positively identify the characteristics of common hazardous substances and subsequently inform their employees of the proper handling procedures.

But since dentists use most chemicals in very small amounts and the personal protective equipment they wear to protect them from potentially infectious materials also helps protect them from chemical exposure, large exposures and the likelihood of serious injury are unlikely.

The problem then becomes more of an issue of dentists failing to understand the regulations – and mistakenly believing they are in compliance – than an issue of dentists not working to be in compliance.

And while there are several regulations to which dental offices must adhere, the most misunderstood is the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). In fact, it was the second most common OSHA citation in 2015 and 2016 across all American industries. And with relatively recent changes to the regulations – OSHA’s new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) having gone into effect on June 1, 2016 for dentists – the citations could increase.

The Globally Harmonized System now ‘… requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets. However, the old standard allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to convey hazard information on labels and safety data sheets in whatever format they chose.’

The goal of the revised standard is to further reduce the likelihood of injury by making sure that employees can easily determine existing hazards posed by a specific chemical by providing ‘… a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets.’

Further, the new standard also incorporates sections of the ‘Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals’ (GHS), which serves to standardize the way hazards are communicated in the workplace.

Dental offices are then required to have ‘readily available’ and ‘up-to-date’ SDSs for all hazardous products in their practice, as well as a list of hazardous chemicals.

While often confusing, OSHA regulations are intended to ensure that all employees have a safe work environment. So, should you find yourself struggling to understand what is required of your dental practice, contact Global Safety Management to help you keep pace with the ever-changing regulations to ensure you offer the best environment for your practice so you can get back to what matters most – your patients.