Dental hygienists wear many hats during their workday, but one of their most important responsibilities relates to preventing the spread of infection. Hygienists must be vigilant when following infection control strategies to avoid exchanging cold and flu viruses, harmful bacteria, or dangerous bloodborne pathogens. Here are four ways these pivotal employees can safeguard their workplace.
Be thorough about handwashing and personal protective equipment (PPE). Proper hand hygiene and the appropriate use of personal protective equipment like gloves or surgical masks are the best ways to prevent transmission of infection. Hygienists can lead the way in promoting safety by consistently following best practice protocols, making sure disinfecting and antiseptic agents are always available, and gently reminding colleagues to practice proper hand hygiene.
Properly dispose of sharps. When dental providers use needles and syringes to deliver medications, they should be careful about how they dispose of these instruments. Safe handling procedures, along with specially designed waste receptacles, can limit needlestick injuries that can spread bloodborne pathogens. Sharps containers should be puncture-resistant, leak-proof, designed to prevent overfilling and located where the sharps are being generated.
Hygienists should also ensure correct disposal of other medical waste, such as gauzes and procedural drapes that are saturated with blood, which can harbour harmful pathogens. For proper disposal of these infectious materials, colour-coded or labelled non-anatomical waste bags are required.
Ensure to follow workplace policies and procedures. Dentists follow strict infection prevention and control (IPAC) standards. In Ontario, dentists must follow the IPAC standards of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO). The RCDSO is only one part of a larger system in the province that provides guidance to dentists on IPAC standards. Other key bodies include the Ontario Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario and local Public Health Units.
Actively participate in training. A lack of compliance with safety regulations and the recommendations above may compromise a patient’s or a team member's well-being. Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a nationwide system that gives employers and workers information about hazardous products used in the workplace. WHMIS training helps ensure workers understand the information on labels and safety data sheets and can apply this knowledge on the job. WHMIS is required by law for everyone working in dental practices.
Fortunately, there are online training modules, such as those offered by Stericycle, which enable organizations to meet Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Training. These easy-to-use tools are available 24/7/365, so staff can complete them at their convenience. The modules also document that training has been completed for situations where the practice must document that training has occurred.
Stericycle can help dental practices ensure a safe workplace. Contact us for more information on the services we offer and how they can help you.