DENTAL PRACTICE ARTICLES
Do You Have a Policy to Cover Civil Emergencies and Business Interruptions?
In any emergency or business interruption, the dentist has a responsibility to ensure the safety of his/her employees, patients and the public. Dental offices need to be prepared to manage emergencies and business interruptions to minimize loss and inconvenience to all concerned.
What is a declared emergency? A “declared emergency” means an emergency declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and includes a quarantine declared by a Medical Officer of Health under the Health Promotion and Protection Act. An emergency includes any unforeseen occurrence, such as fire, power failures, bomb threats, armed attacks, toxic spills, natural disasters, accidents, injuries, or other business interruptions which result in a partial or total shutdown of business operations.
Every dental office should establish an Emergency Management Team (EMT), comprised of at least one representative from management, the Joint Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative, to be responsible for assessing risks to the dental office, its employees, equipment and data. This team should develop strategies and procedures to minimize and/or prevent losses from the identified risks.
The responsibilities of the Emergency Management Team should include conducting a risk assessment and business impact analysis of the office and its susceptibility to declared emergencies, other emergency situations and serious business interruptions. They should develop and publish an emergency plan and ensure the dentist and employees are trained and knowledgeable about the plan. In conjunction with fire and safety professionals, plan fire safety and evacuation procedures for all employees, and patients. Ensure that all employees, including co-op students and temporary personnel are trained in those procedures.
It is important to ensure that all employees have easy and rapid access to emergency telephone contact numbers. Involve the computer support technicians to ensure the security of computer systems and data, using anti-virus, firewall and back-up procedures. This includes ensuring that all employees, who have access to computers, are properly trained to perform any necessary procedures to maintain data security, i.e. having off site backups. Protect your business by collecting essential data regarding business equipment, finance and banking arrangements, computer systems, suppliers, patients, and key personnel in order to create a disaster management package so that you can recover quickly and get your dental office up and running again in a timely manner.
The Emergency Management Team should ensure that there is an adequate emergency supplies are on hand at the work place and establish strategies for communicating relevant information about an emergency or business interruption to employees and patients. The EMT should determine and implement strategies to minimize risk to employees, patients and the public during an emergency situation; and communicate with local authorities to maintain the most current information available on the status of a declared emergency.
Health Related Emergencies
During a public health care crisis, you still need to continue to run your business and treat patients. Business continuity planning is an important part of a dental office’s risk management process, in which it assesses all the risks that may prevent it from achieving its objectives, then decides on ways to manage, or mitigate, those risks.
When it comes to an influenza pandemic, employers also have a societal responsibility to create an effective plan. Because influenza spreads exclusively through human-to-human contact, and much of this contact occurs in the workplace, planning can help prevent the spread of disease among employees, and help to control its spread within society as a whole.
In the event of a declared emergency which is health-related, the dentist must reserve the right to place any employee on mandatory leave if the employee attends at the workplace after being exposed to an individual with an illness or disease related to the declared emergency or the employee shows symptoms associated with the declared emergency. The employee will be required to remain on leave until he or she can produce a doctor’s certificate stating that the employee is fit to work. Employees are expected to follow procedures established by the EMT in order to reduce the spread in the workplace of any infectious disease or illness, including, but not limited to, hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette. Determining protocols for enhanced cleanliness practices at the workplace during a health-related emergency or a health quarantine
Most dental offices will never experience business interruptions due to a declared emergency, but should emergency occur, it is important to have protocols and procedures in place which help to protect the health and safety of employees, patients, and the public. The Emergency Management Team should review and update emergency plan(s) at least once each year, and make any changes deemed necessary.
For more information about Occupational Health and Safety Programs for dental offices, please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Health and Safety info.”
Author: Sandie Baillargeon