OSHA drills dentist in whistleblower check-up

By: July 8th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

An OSHA whistleblower investigation has a dentist squirming in the regulatory exam chair, so to speak. It is also a reminder that workplace safety violations aren’t the only way that dental and medical practices can run afoul of OSHA.

Citing violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act, OSHA filed a complaint in federal court against Niles (OH) Family Dentistry, and its owner Dr. A. Scott Santucci for allegedly “creating a hostile work environment for two employees and forcing them to resign,” according to a July 6 new OSHA news release.

The complaint alleges that Santucci harassed two employees because he suspected them of reporting two mercury spills to OSHA on June 6, 2010, according to the release. Harassment included reducing work hours, cursing, and threatening an employee who refused to work until the spill areas was cleaned by personnel trained in mercury clean-up procedures, according to OSHA.

“Failing to protect workers from known hazardous substances such as mercury is inexcusable,” said Michael Connors, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “Taking retaliatory action against employees for reporting safety concerns is a clear violation of the law.”

OSHA is seeking:

  • Reinstatement of both employees’ positions
  • Payment of lost wages, benefits, interest, and punitive damages
  • Removal of negative comments relevant to protected activities  from employment records

OSHA also is asking the court to require the dental practice to post a nondiscrimination notice about employees who engage in protected activities such as reporting safety violations to OSHA.

OSHA’s whistleblower responsibility includes oversight on 21 statutes that protect employees for reporting violations of federal law.

See “Staying clear of whistleblower protection problems in your practice” for a list of what OSHA considers to be retaliatory actions by employers.

Get into compliance with HCPro’s Basic OSHA Compliance Manual Kits for medical or dental practices. Receive bimonthly electronic manual updates through your newsletter subscription that keep your regulatory manual up to date and in compliance!

Comments

I think many workers do not know of this protection and, as a result, are reluctant to report violations. Receiving back pay and removal of negative comments are critical, but who would want to return to such a working environment?

By Sharon Hoover RN, BSN on July 14th, 2011 at 11:42 am

That’s not the only problem going on. I took my son to the orthodonist and he was one of 5 patients sitting in a row of dental chairs. The orthodonist worked on the first patient by adjusting the patient’s braces, obviously, in the patient’s mouth. He then changed gloves and did the same to the next patient. He changed gloves and then went to the third patient. My son was next, and I was beside myself. Finally, I discreetly asked the orthodonist, “Don’t you think you ought to at least foam your hands between patients?” He was somewhat chagrined, and he went and washed his hands before he stuck them in my son’s mouth.

By Pameal Dembski Hart on July 17th, 2011 at 11:38 pm

To Sharon..Good for you for speaking up..that behavior is unacceptable according to both OSHA’s Bloodborn Pathogen Standard(29CFR 1910.1030) and the most current CDC guidelines just released( July 2011) I believe (or want to) that most clinicians. dentists / docs / HCP’s) are not willfully negligent.. they are simply uninformed. This is not excusable however and would be resolved if they participated and were compliant with OSHA’s annual Bloodborne Pathogen and or Infection Prevention training requirements.
Pamela Dembski Hart CHSP BS MT ASCP, Principal Healthcare Accreditation ResourcesLLC; Boston, Ma

This dentist was not uninformed . he was arrogant and so obviously is his wife who also fired the woman. He knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong when he fired her. He wanted to save money and health and welfare of everyone else be damned. But lets see if the government lets him off the hook again like they do many other who flaunt the system. This employee showed courage and guts and slapped back. she should be applauded

 

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