Small Laboratories - Big Task!
Small Laboratories - Big Task!
According to various statistics, the majority of dental laboratories in the U.S. have one to five employees. How does the owner of this size laboratory develop and implement an effective safety program without spending a lot of time and money?
The first step is to understand the key elements of an effective safety program and then set goals to address each one. They are:
1. Management Commitment and Employee Involvement. This step requires some time and effort, but you will need to invest this time even if you outsource some of the development of your safety program.
* Make safety a core value of the company and communicate your safety policy to employees. Instill in your employees this value from the very beginning of their employment.
* Management’s actions must reflect commitment. If you require employees to wear safety eyewear in certain areas of the laboratory, then you must wear them when you enter those areas.
* Develop long-term and short-term goals with a plan for achieving the goals.
* Management must have a visible role. Commitment from the top is necessary regardless of the size of the laboratory.
* Employee participation is critical. The smaller laboratory usually will not have a safety committee, but during regular staff meetings include safety.
* Review the plan regularly and update it. It is your responsibility to keep up with the OSHA changes that affect you as an employer. Either attend safety workshops or hire a consultant to keep you informed.
2. Worksite Analysis. Involve employees in this process if possible. The purpose of this step is to identify the hazards, i.e. chemical, equipment, electrical, fire, evacuation, etc. In this process you must:
* Address specific job issues and conduct a needs analysis.
* Identify potential hazards; describe what should be done to protect workers from hazards.
* Conduct frequent and regular inspections.
3. Hazard prevention and control. This step involves resolving how to protect the workers from the hazards. Use these methods:
* Change work practices - in other words, change the process or way you perform the task. An example would be the divesting process. To eliminate the dust, divest under water.
* Install engineering controls - using the divesting process as an example, you could install dust collection to remove the dust from the worker or divest in a closed cabinet with dust collection.
* Implement administrative controls - an example would be to reduce the length of time employees are exposed to particular hazards. If there are noisy areas, then only allow him/her to work in that area a certain length of time and then move the employee to another area to work.
* Provide personal protective equipment - this is the last method used to protect employees. Be sure that the PPE provided provides the right type of protection for the job.
4. Training and Education.
Cathy Hill and her husband are the owners of Key Dental Laboratoriesoratory, a five-person laboratory in Texas. Cathy shared with me her belief that, “the owner or principal should take a proactive role in the training of employees on health and safety. This eliminates the costs and expenses incurred to train an employee or employees. Should the employee or employees leave the company, an additional cost burden would fall upon the company for retraining.”
Training sessions should be conducted as needed and annually if the OSHA standard requires. When bringing something new into the laboratories, ask the supplier or manufacturer who has the knowledge about this product to conduct the training for you. The infection control training must occur annually or more often as needed.
The best advice that I can give to a one- to five-person laboratories owner who doesn’t have time to research the OSHA standards is to invite the consultation arm of OSHA in to help you or purchase a safety program from a company like Safelink. Use this information to develop your own program. Cathy Hill expressed to me that, “it has been a great benefit to me to have a competent, reliable and professional organization at my fingertips to contact should training or compliance issues arise. Again, to me, this is a cost-saving issue as I do not have to exert an abundance of time to chase down answers to questions. With the aid of Safelink’s MSDS Toolkit and Health and Safety Training Manuals, the time and energy expended in the preparation of these manuals have been greatly reduced. Therefore, this has afforded me the time and ability to concentrate on other aspects of the business.”
NADL has partnered with Safelink to provide you with an easy way to develop your safety program. NADL members receive a discount so check out NADL’s Web site or call Safelink for more information.