Every workplace in Canada shares the common goal of maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. Protecting yourself and your team members by adopting the principles of safety in the workplace isn’t just important, the success of your practice depends on it.
Under each province’s respective occupational health and safety (OH&S) guidelines, all employers and employees must take responsibility for health and safety. This requires a group effort and a thorough understanding of the guidelines, laws, standards and regulations. Given the current state of the world, health and safety are primary concerns. These principles are even more salient for workers in the healthcare industry. It’s essential that dental practices maintain their focus on health and safety in order to protect team members and patients. For those who require additional persuasion, embracing a culture of safety will also help prevent litigation, work site inspections/audits, public health inspections and employee work refusals.
Do Your Due Diligence
Due diligence is demonstrated by your actions before an event occurs, not after. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), the conditions for establishing due diligence include the following criteria:
- Employers must have in place written OH&S policies, practices, and procedures;
- Employers must provide appropriate training and education to employees;
- Employers must educate and train managers/supervisors;
- Employers must monitor the workplace and ensure employees are following policies, practices and procedures;
- Employers should have an incident (accident) investigation reporting system/program in place; and
- Employers should document all of the above in writing.
Communicate Your Policy
Communication is the key to a safe and healthy work environment. Everyone working within a practice is legally required to comply with provincial workplace safety laws. To ensure that your practice complies with OH&S policies requires involving every single team member in the process of making the clinic safer and more compliant. All employees must be informed about set policies and understand their specific roles and responsibilities. Ensure your policies are written down and prominently displayed in the practice. OH&S policies should be clear, easy to follow and readily accessible to your entire team. It is critical to review your policies periodically as a team, and to allow workers to ask questions. These OH&S check-ins demonstrate the importance of health and safety in the office and enables you to ensure rules and regulations are clearly understood.
Understand Your Employees’ Rights
According to the CCOHS, Canadian workers have three basic rights. It is your responsibility to ensure that they are aware of the following:
- Right to Know - Employees have the right to know what hazards are present in the workplace, and receive the proper information, training, and supervision needed to
- Right to Participate - Employees have the right to participate in keeping the workplace healthy and safe, which may include selecting or being a health and safety representative or committee member. The right to participate includes the right to report unsafe working conditions and practices.
- Right to Refuse - Employees have the right to refuse work believed to be dangerous. When exercising the right to refuse work, proper procedures must be followed.
Now is the ideal time to further educate yourself and your team members about workplace safety. As a leader, you can demonstrate that you care about your employees, colleagues and coworkers by taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of your team is a top priority. When employees believe their leaders care about their safety and comfort at work, they feel respected and, as a consequence, their performance and morale improve.
Infectious Disease Response Plan
It’s vital that practices across Canada establish an infectious disease response plan. This plan should include how the dental office will operate during and throughout the recovery of the pandemic. Implement an infection prevention and control (IPAC) checklist, including disinfection and sterilization protocols, guidelines for donning and doffing of PPE, equipment and resources, processes for reporting illness, expectations around physical distancing, etc. As provincial restrictions ease, practices must continue to adhere to guidelines from their local public health authorities. Providing employees training on infectious diseases, including how they spread, the importance of risk assessment, and procedures to follow in the event of an exposure is essential for the practice to operate safely and successfully.
It is crucial that all practice team members understand their roles and responsibilities when it comes to workplace health and safety. You must ensure that policies are updated and displayed for all employees to see. Keep in mind that using provincial and industry resources will improve workplace understanding. We are all navigating these challenging times together. Effectively communicating set rules and regulations will help keep yourself, your team, and your patients safe.