Put on the helmet and yell ‘hike!’

Sept. 1, 2011
The profile photograph for me on Facebook is not a solo act. My dog is in the photo with me. She is wearing a kerchief denoting her allegiance ...

by Mark Hartley
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The profile photograph for me on Facebook is not a solo act. My dog is in the photo with me. She is wearing a kerchief denoting her allegiance to my favorite football team. The kerchief was a Christmas gift to me from my oldest son, even though the size of it is clearly only for a petite Boston Terrier’s neck, not my middle-age male human neck.

The dog has worn the kerchief once, on the day the photograph was taken, probably Christmas Day 2010. I don’t make her wear clothes. Overall, she seemed a little put out by the kerchief.

She won’t be wearing it this weekend, although she likely will be the only companion in the room while I watch the football games on TV.

There’s one thing the dog and I can count on this fall: Both football players and dental hygienists will have career-ending injuries.

Although personnel in both occupations can usually do something else for a living, it’s always a shame to see the serious injuries happen, especially when careers are shortened.

I’m not going to unfairly call attention to someone in this space. However, an article in this issue contains a reference to a career-ending injury to a dental hygienist.

I never like seeing it, even though it’s acknowledged that the playing field for dental hygienists can be as dangerous as what football players enounter in the stadiums.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration says the hazards faced by dental professionals "include but are not limited to the spectrum of bloodborne pathogens, pharmaceuticals and other chemical agents, human factors, ergonomic hazards, noise, vibration, and workplace violence."

Many of those hazards seem to fall into the stuff-happens-when-you-are-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time category. Musculoskeletal injuries, though, are dental hygienists simply doing the same repetitive task all day long in harm’s way.

OSHA adds that "the level of risk depends on the intensity, frequency, and duration of the exposure to these conditions and the individual’s capacity to meet the force of other job demands that might be involved."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes about health-care workers: "Women represent nearly 80% of the health-care work force. Although it is possible to prevent or reduce health-care worker exposure to these hazards, health-care workers actually are experiencing increasing numbers of occupational injuries and illnesses. Rates of occupational injury to health-care workers have risen over the past decade. By contrast, two of the most hazardous industries, agriculture and construction, are safer today than they were a decade ago."

It’s heartening to see dental hygienists modify their work environment through safer ergonomic practices. They switch to magnification, better lighting, better instruments, etc.

But this fall, as I watch football players have some nasty collisions on the field, dental hygienists are going to be injured too, sure as rain.

I have a different perspective of Anne Guignon than you do. Anne is the primary RDH author who addresses workplace safety issues. I’m the editor who reads her articles. I actually think she is a pretty good writer. Why don’t we all put her out of work as the expert on your occupational health, and see what she can do in writing about other subjects?

Put on the helmet before you yell, "Hike!"

In closing, as I promised to do, I want to give a shout out to Allyson Williams, RDH, who is the recipient of the Coltene Whaledent Time to Upscale Contest (see page 19). Congratulations, Allyson!

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