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Some dental practices failing to plan for bloodborne exposure

Some people who work in New Jersey dental offices might be vulnerable to exposure to bloodborne pathogens according to a survey by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention. The survey collected answers from more than 1,000 dental hygienists, dentists and staff at private dental practices around the country regarding protocol around bloodborne pathogens.

The survey asked whether participants were aware of applicable OSHA requirements, whether their practice had a written plan for exposure control and whether they knew what might prevent the implementation of an exposure control plan. The survey found that there was no intent to develop an exposure control plan among half the respondents who did not have one. Of those who had a plan, almost one-quarter had not reviewed it in the past 12 months.

Around one-fifth of the participants had an exposure control plan that lacked all the necessary elements. A lack of time was cited as the reason by more than one-third while half said it was because they did not know the elements were needed, and 47 percent said a lack of expertise was the reason. Two-thirds of people said the needles in their practice did not have sharps injury prevention features, and in 15 percent of the offices, employees were not offered hepatitis B vaccines.

Employers have an obligation to keep their employees safe and observe regulations. However, if an employee is injured on the job or becomes ill because of exposure on the job, the worker is eligible for workers' compensation regardless of who is at fault in the incident. This could be an important benefit for an employee who is facing financial hardship as a result of both medical bills and missing work. An attorney may be able to assist an employee in filling out paperwork and with appeals if necessary.

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