The Dental Lab Expert: addressing resistance to health and safety

With health and safety considered an annoyance for many, Ashley Byrne provides a dental technician's view on why it's an asset to be proud of. 

With health and safety considered an annoyance for many, Ashley Byrne provides a dental technician’s view on why it’s an asset to be proud of. 

‘It’s turning into a nanny state!’ was one comment.

‘Who has the right to tell me what health and safety I have to use at work?’ was another.

Health and safety at work is considered by many to be a thorn in their side. But I think it’s time we started to take matters a little more seriously and switch our thinking to its positives.

Health and safety has been mocked around the world by many who see it as government pushed, by a bureaucratic jobsworth of a person, forcing us to do things we don’t want to do.

The perception of many is that it’s costly, there are no benefits, and we have never needed it before, so why do we need it now?

A mentality change is key

In my opinion, unless we change that mentality, our industry will continue to have problems with recruitment, acceptance as a healthcare provider, and more importantly, will carry a risk that a dental technician is seriously injured or even killed.

We have a regulatory obligation to meet our health and safety standards.

There is an expectation from current and prospective employees that we have this in place and are educating our teams on it.

Is this merely a costly burden? Or can we change our view of health and safety to being an asset, beneficial to all, and an investment in our future? Let’s look at some of these in more detail.

Dentistry is a healthcare provider, and professionalism is vital in all we do. We must mirror the standard of our dentists if we expect to have the recognition of our industry.

At my lab, we aim to exceed that standard in all we do. When I show clinicians around, I hope they will be impressed by our safety standards and no part of my lab is off limits.

From high level extraction, HEPA filters, signage, fire alarms and so on and so forth. We are a professional industry with a professional registration and our businesses need to reflect that.

Alarming statistics

People have said in the past that health and safety hasn’t achieved anything. But we forget the statistics that are so readily available.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), over 1.8 million people were injured at work and 123 were killed in 2021-2022. It’s a high figure and when serious health and safety issues occur, they often hit the news.

I never want to see our industry in the headlines for this.

In 2019-2020, HSE estimated an £18 billion cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions. Perhaps we, as an industry, should switch our thinking to good health and safety as an investment rather than a cost.

There is a great deal of evidence already that good health and safety policy has shown to reduce costs and increased production in all aspects of work.

An asset to be proud of

In our own industry, we know the challenges of employing good technicians and salary alone is not enough to attract good talent.

Picture a good ceramist going to two labs for a job interview.

One has state-of-the-art ergonomic benches with high quality, quiet HEPA extraction, a dust-free environment, tidy and clean, and a peaceful and safe place to work.

The other lab has noise, unsafe vacuum cleaners running as extractors, benches made from cheap kitchen worktops, dust everywhere, and no sign of looking after the employees’ health and wellbeing.

Despite salary offer, which lab is going to be the more attractive?

Health and safety should be viewed as an asset that the dental technology industry is proud of. It smartens up our industry and it improves our health and wellbeing as a whole.

It increases output, reduces costs, improves employee retention, and makes you more attractive as an employer. Especially to the younger demographic coming into the industry.

The benefits are crystal clear. And we as a profession should start looking after ourselves and our teams to ensure a healthy and prosperous future.

Catch up with previous columns from the Dental Lab Expert:

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