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Bloodborne illness a risk for dental workers

Bloodborne diseases could pose a real threat to dental office workers in North Carolina, the results of a survey show. A large number of dental clinics do not maintain mandatory plans for controlling exposure to these pathogens. The survey included more than 1,000 participants from private dental practices across the United States. Conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention, the survey aimed to examine compliance with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The survey found that 28 percent of these private dental practices do not comply with OSHA's requirement to have a site-specific, written bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan. Of that 28 percent, half have no plans to introduce one in the coming year. The plans are important in order to develop practices to protect dental workers and patients from bloodborne disease, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

There are other factors putting dental workers at risk as well. In the survey, 65 percent of respondents used needles without sharps injury prevention features. Another 15 percent of the clinics surveyed did not offer hepatitis B vaccines to employees. Of the respondents with a bloodborne disease exposure control plan, 24 percent had not reviewed it in the past year while 20 percent had not implemented its required elements.

Although workers' compensation is usually associated with injury accidents, benefits are also available to workers who contract an occupational disease. People who have fallen ill as a result of hazardous working conditions may want to have the assistance of an attorney when preparing and filing the required claim.

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