Infection Control: Periodic infection control training benefits everyone

Jan. 1, 2001
Periodic in-office reviews of infection control procedures underscore the importance of the procedures being performed.

Training is a key component of an office infection control and safety program. Areas to highlight include: A periodic review of office infection control procedures, products, and equipment; the OSHA-required initial training of new employees covered under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard; and the OSHA-required annual update training of all employees covered under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. The OSHA Hazard Communication standard also requires hazardous chemicals training; however, the scope of this article will be limited to infection control.

Value of training

Training can provide new information, enhance the importance of previously learned facts, and re-emphasize forgotten information. It also gives confidence to trainees by helping them to better understand a given topic. Training can also increase efficiency and safety in the office, as well as facilitate cost savings. In-office sessions give employees an opportunity to express opinions, voice concerns, and make suggestions for improvement, all of which contributes to a positive team environment. In short, training helps create job satisfaction.

Periodic in-office reviews of infection control procedures underscore the importance of the procedures being performed. It brings previously learned information "to the forefront of the brain" and counteracts complacency. An approach to this in-office training is to select one area of infection control - sharps safety, handwashing, glove use, masks, protective clothing and eyeglasses, or laundry management, for example - to discuss at each staff meeting. Include a topic even if there are no apparent problems or concerns. Develop an infection control agenda for each meeting so that important points are presented and discussed. Training segments should be planned in advance. Start with a review of current procedures for the area being discussed. For example, if the topic is sharps safety, describe how sharps are currently handled no matter where they are found. Ask if there are any concerns about the current procedures. Ask how procedures can be improved to enhance safety. Ask for new ways to remind each other to handle sharps carefully. Provide information on any new products that may facilitate safety in this area.

OSHA bloodborne pathogens training

The OSHA standards for required new employee training are listed below. Training should include a review of the required written Exposure Control Plan for the office and the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard itself. A boilerplate Exposure Control Plan and a copy of the standard can be obtained from the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures (OSAP) by calling (800) 298-6727. The other elements of the OSHA training program are: a general explanation of the epidemiology, symptoms, and modes of the spread of bloodborne diseases; an explanation of tasks that can lead to patient body fluid exposure; an explanation of the use and limitations of methods that can reduce exposure; information on the types, selection, proper use, location, removal, handling, decontamination, and disposal of personal protective equipment; information on the general nature, efficacy, safety, method of administration, and benefits of the hepatitis vaccination series; information regarding the appropriate action should an emergency involving blood or other body fluids occur; information on the post-exposure medical evaluation the employer must provide following an exposure incident; an explanation of the signs and labels used in the office to identify biohazards; and finally, an opportunity for an interactive question-and-answer session with the person giving the training.

The training must be documented and the records kept for three years.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard also requires annual update training on the areas listed above. Additional training is also required whenever there are changes that may affect employees' occupational exposure. This training must also be documented and the records kept for three years.

Staff meetings offer a great opportunity for short training segments. They may also be appropriate for OSHA update training, although more extensive CE courses can perhaps provide better OSHA initial and annual update training.

In-office training can consist of live demonstrations of new products, equipment or procedures, reading material, verbal presentations, videotapes, and Web-based information. Be sure to utilize some interactive process - a question-and- answer period, for example. Training also can involve information gathering by the staff for discussion at the next meeting.

Any review or update training regarding infection control can benefit from information from OSAP. At least one staff member from every office should be a member of OSAP. Membership provides monthly updates and periodic in-depth analyses on all aspects of dental infection control. An annual membership to this not-for-profit professional organization is $50; call (800) 298-6727 for more information.

Chris Miller, PhD, is professor of oral microbiology and executive associate dean at the Indiana University School of Dentistry.