Complying with infection control obligations

05 August 2020

Guidelines on infection control

  • The Dental Board of Australia (DBA) has developed guidelines on infection control (the DBA Guidelines) which apply to all dental practitioners, being dentists, dental hygienists, dental prosthetists, dental therapists, oral health therapists and dental specialists.
  • Under the DBA Guidelines, dental practitioners are required to practise dentistry in a manner that “maintains and enhances public health and safety by ensuring that the risk of the spread of infectious diseases is prevented or minimised”.
  • In particular, the DBA Guidelines require dental practitioners to:
    • have a copy of particular documentation at the practice which dental practitioners and staff can easily access, including: a manual which outlines the practice’s infection control protocols and procedures; the relevant Australian and New Zealand Standard; and infection control guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Dental Association;
    • ensure the practice is kept in a clean and hygienic state;
    • take steps to prevent or reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases when treating patients;
    • act in accordance with the requirements set out in the abovementioned manual, standards and guidelines; and
    • be aware of their infection status for blood-borne viruses.

Dental practitioners’ obligations to comply with the Guidelines

  • Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, registered dental practitioners are required to comply with the DBA Guidelines.
  • Each dental practitioner at a practice is responsible for implementing and complying with the DBA Guidelines when practising dentistry, whether they are an employer, employee or contractor.
  • As the duty to comply with the DBA Guidelines is non-delegable, it is in the interest of all dental practitioners to ensure they and their staff receive ongoing training and are familiar with the infection control protocols of the practice.

What should a dental practitioner do in the event there is a breach of infection control protocols at the practice where they work?

In the event there is an infection control breach at a practice, it is important to take immediate steps to protect the health and safety of the public. Dental practitioners should also notify their professional indemnity insurer and seek legal and clinical advice with respect to the management of any infection control breach as soon as possible.

How can dental practitioners check if the practice where they work complies with the DBA Guidelines?

The DBA provides practitioners with a self-audit tool available on the DBA website that allows dental practitioners to assess compliance with the DBA Guidelines.

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