Some employees of South Carolina dental practices may be at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. An advocacy group known as the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health carried out a survey of 1,059 people who worked for private dental practices around the country to find out if standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were being used. Among those surveyed were dental hygienists, dentists and other staff.

The survey was designed to find out whether participants were aware of the OSHA standards, knew obstacles to a successful exposure control plan, and worked at a practice with a written exposure control plan. The study found that among those who lacked an exposure control plan, half did not intend to implement one in the next 12 months. Almost a quarter had not reviewed the exposure control plan in the past year. Among those who had an exposure control plan, 20 percent did not have all the needed elements. Half were unaware it was necessary, nearly half said they lacked the needed expertise, and more than one-third blamed a time crunch.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said there was no sharps injury prevention feature on the needles they used. Employees were not offered hepatitis B vaccines according to 15 percent of respondents.

Unfortunately, these lapses could result in employees becoming ill as a result of exposure. Most employees who become ill because of being exposed to a hazard in the workplace are eligible for workers’ compensation. An attorney can often assist employees in filing a claim for benefits as well as explain the procedure for challenging a denial.