- OSHA Healthcare Advisor - http://blogs.hcpro.com/osha -

OSHA sues dental practice for firing workers voicing safety concerns

Capped needles, not capped teeth, has a Beverly, MA, dental practice, in whistleblower trouble with OSHA.

OSHA is suing N. Terry Fayad, and his dental practice “for allegedly firing an employee for raising concerns about needlestick hazards and filing a health hazard complaint, according to a September 21 OSHA news release [1].

According to the complaint, last November Fayad fired a dental assistant, who voiced concerns about a new office procedure requiring workers to remove caps from contaminated needles before disposing in sharps containers, a procedure that unnecessarily exposes workers to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B, C, and HIV.

The lawsuit contends “Dr. Fayad changed the procedure so that more needles would fit in the sharps containers, ‘reducing the frequency of their disposal by Fayad’s disposal service provider and saving Fayad money,’ ” according to a report by DrBicuspid.com [2].

“No employer should ever treat employees this way,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator in the OSHA release. “Workers have the right to perform their jobs without being exposed to life-threatening hazards as well as the right to raise concerns when faced with such hazards. The Labor Department will take all appropriate legal steps to ensure these rights are enforced.”

The whistleblower lawsuit seeks reinstatement of the dental assistant’s job, payment of lost wages and benefits with interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.

A separate inspection resulting from the whistleblower complaint cited the dental practice and proposed $26,400 in fines for eight alleged serious violations of the Bloodborne Pathogens and Hazard Communication, according to OSHA.

What is with dentists and OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program? Last July OSHA Healthcare Advisor reported on another whistleblower suit where a dentist allegedly retaliated by creating a hostile work environment for two workers concerning mercury spill clean-ups. See “OSHA drills dentist in whistleblower check-up.” [3]