OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

February 16, 1993



SUBJECT: American Dental Association "Checklist"


Attached please find a copy of correspondence received from the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). We have received a number of inquiries from the public and OSHA field staff concerning the content of the attached article which appeared in the American Dental Association (ADA) News on January 18 and the "OSHA Compliance Checklist" as well as the agency's role in its development.

OSHA appreciates the ADHA's concern that their members, who are mostly employed in private dental offices, be protected by "full compliance with the entire bloodborne pathogens standard" and agrees that compliance with this standard "will promote health and safety in the dental workplace for providers and patients alike." This memorandum will serve to clarify a number of misconceptions which have arisen following the publication of the ADA article regarding OSHA's role in the review of this list as well as the agency's view of the use of checklists to verify compliance with OSHA standards.

The ADA originally requested that OSHA review the ADA document and concur that "...a dental office that follows this checklist would be in substantial compliance with OSHA regulations OSHA informed the ADA that OSHA cannot endorse any document or make any statement that in any way presumes that a checklist would result in "substantial compliance with OSHA regulations". The ADA was informed that OSHA does not grant such approvals and that the final determination of compliance with OSHA regulations is made by the area director following the compliance officer's evaluation of all factors pertaining to potential hazards at a particular worksite with respect to employee safety and health.

We further informed the ADA that the use of a checklist, or any other method of informing employers of compliance requirements of OSHA standards through simplification of the regulations, may imply a reduction of the actual requirements. We therefore emphasized that employers who are contemplating the use of checklists or other similar guides should be aware that they are not to be considered a substitute for any provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or for any standards issued by OSHA and that it is the standards themselves which are the legal requirements to which an employer will be held.

The review which OSHA performed on this document did not constitute "the first time that OSHA has reviewed and commented on a checklist submitted by an employers' group" (ADA article). Rather, we provided the ADA with a cursory review similar to that which is performed, as resources permit, on a number of documents which are submitted to the agency by professional groups, trade associations, or labor unions. OSHA emphatically did not perform a comprehensive line by line review of the entire document. It should be noted that our corrections to the checklist were not necessarily adopted by the ADA and the final version therefore does not incorporate all of the agency's comments.

Importantly, the ADA was informed that our review and comments were limited to the material presented in the document and did not address other applicable OSHA standards which were not included in the material. Nor did the agency concur that every element, even of the standards which were covered by the checklist, was adequately addressed.

Please distribute this memorandum and the checklist to your area offices and all compliance personnel so that they may adequately respond to public inquiries on this subject. Based on legal counsel, the checklist may be reproduced and distributed to OSHA personnel under 17 U.S.C. section 107 which permits "fair use of copyrighted work." We are currently in the process of requesting permission from the ADA to distribute the checklist to the general public, upon request, and will inform you if and when permission is granted.

cc: American Dental Hygienists Association
American Dental Association