Ask the expert: Lab coat for dental hygienist, who is responsible?

By: April 23rd, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: I understood that lab coats for dental hygienists were to be provided and laundered by the dental practice. Now my new employer tells me I must provide and clean my own lab coat. What’s the regulation?

A: It depends on the function the lab coat performs.

If the lab or clinic coat does not function as personal protective equipment (PPE), similar in this case to scrubs, then it is usually the employee who provides it and launders it. And the employer would need to provide alternative PPE, such as gowns, in the reasonable likelihood of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

If the lab coat functions as PPE, then according to OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard 1910.1030(d)(3)(i), this must be provided, maintained and laundered by the employer.

A simple way to find out is check the dental practice’s OSHA mandated exposure control plan which will identify the PPE used in the practice.

If the practice doesn’t have an exposure control plan, they are in violation of OSHA and it’s probably not a safe place to practice at.

Comments

By Terry Horn, RDH on April 26th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

In the over 28 years of working for private dentist in the state of Georgia, the employees would be provided gloves, masks and eye protection. Some dentist would give us a small clothing allowance to buy lab jackets or scrubs, but never have they purchased or washed our lab jackets. None of the offices over the years had an OSHA exposure control plan nor did any of them ever get audited by OSHA or even had a fear of being inspected by OSHA. I hope my fellow Hygienist will get her PPE’s.

We have started building a number of dental facilites as part of our Medical Clinic System. It is an eye opener to see how lax the dental areas are in safety and infection control. If you are wearing eye protection and masks, probability is you need protective clothing. So a dispostable apron or other PPE would need to be worn over a lab coat if the lab coat is not considered as PPE.

You are going to have a hard time saying clothing PPE are not needed if you are wearing eye protection and masks.

 

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