by Noel Kelsch, RDHAP
Once a year, I take the time to review my plans for the coming year. I take out my calendar and prioritize where I am going and what I am doing. This calendar gives me direction throughout the year and reminds me of the things that really matter. I have never missed our anniversary in the 32 years I have been married to Dave, or skipped a single child's birthday, because the days are built right in to my calendar.
This same formula is vital to the dental office. Every dental office should have an annual date set for training on bloodborne pathogens. OSHA asks all dental offices to mark their calendars!
Yearly, all employees with occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens must receive annual training. When someone new starts on the job with occupational exposures, they must be trained before they start working. Any time an employee has additional tasks added to their job or changes their position in the office that includes the risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, they must have additional training.
There can be no cost to the employee, and the training has to occur during working hours. The materials have to be appropriate in content and vocabulary to the educational level, literacy, and language of the employees.
Bloodborne pathogens means pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
What does the training include?
At a minimum, the training program shall contain the following elements:
- An accessible copy of the regulatory text of the OSHA standard and an explanation of its contents
- A general explanation of the epidemiology and symptoms of bloodborne diseases
- An explanation of the modes of transmission of bloodborne pathogens
- An explanation of the employer's exposure control plan and the means by which the employee can obtain a copy of the written plan
- An explanation of the appropriate methods for recognizing tasks and other activities that may involve exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials
- An explanation of the use and limitations of methods that will prevent or reduce exposure, including appropriate engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment
- Information on the types, proper use, location, removal, handling, decontamination, and disposal of personal protective equipment
- An explanation of the basis for selection of personal protective equipment
- Information on the hepatitis B vaccine, including information on its efficacy, safety, method of administration, the benefits of being vaccinated, and that the vaccine and vaccination will be offered free of charge
- Information on the appropriate actions to take and persons to contact in an emergency involving blood or other potentially infectious materials
- An explanation of the procedure to follow if an exposure incident occurs, including the method of reporting the incident and the medical follow-up that will be made available
- Information on the postexposure evaluation and follow-up that the employer is required to provide for the employee following an exposure incident
- An explanation of the signs and labels and/or color coding for biohazard labeling
- There must also be an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with the person conducting the training session
- The person conducting the training shall be knowledgeable in the subject matter covered by the elements contained in the training program as it relates to the workplace that the training will address.1
- My calendar is filling up, and I have found a space for those things that really matter. I hope you will mark your calendar and find a space for the required yearly training on the bloodborne pathogens. It can make all the difference in your priorities.
1 www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10051 Accessed June 2010.
Noel Brandon Kelsch, RDHAP, is a syndicated columnist, writer, speaker, and cartoonist. She is a member of the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention, and has received many national awards. Kelsch owns her dental hygiene practice that focuses on access to care for all. She has devoted much of her 35 years in dentistry to educating people about the devastating effects of methamphetamine and drug use. She is immediate past president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association, and is on the board of directors for the Simi Valley Free Clinic.
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