The association continues to clarify with OSHA any exemptions for orthodontic practices, but did confirm that the ETS does not include potentially costly HVAC upgrades.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) released its assessment of the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued by OSHA on June 10.
The ADA issued its assessment on June 14, finding that dental practices are largely exempt from the ETS. The AAO assessment focused on how the ETS pertains to employee safety in orthodontic practices going forward.
The AAO’s review confirms that the ETS does not require orthodontic procedures to be performed in a negative airflow room, or include similarly “costly and burdensome” HVAC requirements. The AAO had advocated over the last year that requirements like this would be cost-prohibitive, especially considering the difficult year orthodontists and dentists have had.
The AAO does note that orthodontic settings may not fall under the ETS, and would thus be exempt from the requirements set out in the ETS. The ETS preamble states that “non-hospital ambulatory care settings” may not be covered by the ETS where “the employer develops and implements policies and procedures to screen all non-employees prior to entry and does not permit those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 entry into the facility.” The same information can be found in the infographic OSHA released as part of the ETS—“Is your workplace covered by the COVID-19 Healthcare ETS?”
As the AAO notes, orthodontics settings were specifically listed as an example of a possibly exempted employer. According to the AAO, its legal and advocacy teams continue to work with its lobbying firm Cozen O’Connor to clarify any confirmed exemptions for orthodontic practices when necessary screening protocols are in place.
If an orthodontic practice falls under the ETS, then the ETS mandates a number of requirements for covered employees including those related to PPE and what to do if an employee is exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace or tests positive.
OSHA only issues emergency temporary standards under limited circumstances and this is the first such standard to be released in 38 years. It will remain in effect until replaced by a permanent standard or OSHA determines COVID-19 no longer presents a significant threat to the covered workplace.