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Two Recent Cases of Dental Workplace Violence Highlight Need for Prevention

In February, two dental practices faced extreme violence in the workplace. The first occurred on February 7, 2024, at a clinic in New Orleans, when an allegedly unhinged woman entered the dental office, asked to speak with the dentist, and then suddenly stabbed the dentist in the eye and neck. The dentist survived. The woman’s connection to the dental practice has not been reported. The second incident occurred in late February in San Diego, where a dentist was tragically shot and killed, and two others wounded, by a disgruntled patient.

Federal OSHAAs highlighted above, the risk of workplace violence in healthcare settings, including dentistry, is real.According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data reported healthcare and social assistance workers were the victims of approximately 11,370 assaults by individuals. Therefore, it is recommended that ALL dental practices nationwide should consider implementing a customized workplace violence prevention plan, to include the following.

  • Management’s commitment to preventing violence in the workplace.
  • A hazard assessment of the office and community.
  • Hazard prevention and control.
  • Employee training and drills (in the early warnings and prevention of workplace violence).
  • Proper incident response.
  • Recordkeeping, keeping records of threatening or violent workplace incidents.

A dental practice should establish reasonable employment policies regarding sexual harassment, firearm possession in the office, general security, erratic patient or employee behavior, and substance abuse matters. These policies should be included as part of the employment/human resources handbook maintained in the office.

A zero-tolerance policy for violence should be adhered to in the office, which should be clearly communicated to staff and patients. However, if an employee feels threatened on the job or an incident of workplace violence occurs, caused either by an employee or a patient, employers must investigate and remedy the situation immediately. For incidents involving patients, if considering patient dismissal, liability carriers should be consulted for specific recommendations to avoid charges of patient abandonment and/or discrimination.

In California

To minimize the risk of violence to employees, last fall, California Senate Bill 553 was enacted which requiresnearly all California employers, with very few exceptions, to create and implement a written workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024. Please refer to our blog post for more information on this new mandate in California.

For our OSHA Review subscribers… the March/April 2024 Training Document, sent via mail in late February, covers California’s new workplace violence prevention requirements, including the availability of a workplace violence prevention plan template form, which can be downloaded from our website.

Since 1992, OSHA Review, Inc. has provided dental professionals with comprehensive programs to support regulatory compliance and infection control. We are a registered continuing education provider in the state of California, specializing in Dental Practice Act, infection control, and OSHA training.

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