Keep calm and carry on: how to respond when things go wrong in the practice


  Posted by: Dental Design      3rd August 2023

A smooth, well-functioning working environment relies on everything operating harmoniously and without incident. For example, computers working perfectly, all required equipment being in its correct place and in good working order, each member of staff fully trained in their responsibilities as well as protocols and procedures being established and regularly reviewed.     

Anticipating potential issues is the most robust defence against them arising in the first place. The reality is that all workplaces – and dental practices are no exception – are only ever likely to be one or two steps away from a problem of some type. Knowing what to do when something goes wrong can help to avoid undesirable consequences. One-off incidents, such as a power cut, can cause costly and disruptive practice downtime. Multiple or repeated smaller-scale occurrences, such as low-level exposure to hazardous substances, can have an accumulated impact on team members’ wellbeing.[1]

Preparation is key

Risk assessments are a crucial tool in identifying potentially problematic areas across the practice.[2] Reviewing them regularly is essential in order to cater to changes in staff, activities, or equipment. Training for team members, whether health and safety-related or specific to their role, contributes to the collective skills and knowledge needed for the safe and efficient running of the practice.[3] Compliance with relevant regulations must be documented, up to date, clearly accessible within the practice, and ready for inspection by the Care and Quality Commission (CQC). This includes safety certification of first-response equipment such as medical kits and fire extinguishers,[4] [5] gas and electricity installation, and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) risk assessments.[6]

Rapid resolution

 When problems do arise, clarity is critical to a quick and effective response. All key facts need to be established as soon as possible. What has happened? Is anyone in danger? Is anything damaged? Has the relevant first response procedure been activated and delivered? Once the problem is being managed sufficiently, the facts must be recorded, verified, and reported in line with your practice protocol.

Problem management: best practice

In the dental profession, the owner of the practice is ultimately accountable for health and safety compliance. Each member of the team must also play their part, though, in helping to ensure the practice is as safe as is practicable for each other and for patients.[7] Transparency in processes is essential to minimising possible pitfalls in the working environment. It may sound obvious, but everyone should be aware, and capable, of the entire scope of their job, including any duties

peripheral to their main role.[8] Filing safety compliance documents, for instance, may be an additional responsibility of the dental reception team: clearly communicated allocation of the task avoids confusion and potential oversight. Lines of authority, with team-wide understanding of who to contact, and how, in which circumstances, should be up to date and readily accessible.

Review and reflect

Once the immediate problem has been resolved satisfactorily, a review of the incident should be undertaken. This reflection process is immeasurably helpful in strengthening processes and identifying where improvements can be made and any useful equipment that could be brought in to minimise the impact should such an incident occur again. A specialist product such as the Mercury Spillage Kit from Initial Medical provides rapid recovery from potentially hazardous spills for which standard cleaning equipment is inadequate. The kit contains everything necessary to manage and dispose of regulated items such as mercury-based dental amalgam,[9] [10] getting the practice back up and running safely and quickly.

Reap the benefits of hindsight

Of course, everyone is human and nobody is perfect. Technical failures can be beyond our control, and mistakes and errors of judgement are made by the best of us. Take full advantage of hindsight after an incident and mitigate the risk of future disruption – or worse still, damage – with the benefit of fresh experience and lessons learned.

To find out more, get in touch at 0870 850 4045 or visit the website today

Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  

– ENDS –

About Initial Medical    

Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective, and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams.  We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation, and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.  

Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.

For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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[1] de Jesus LF, Moreira FR. Impact of exposure to low levels of mercury on the health of dental workers. Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Acta Scientiarum. Health Sciences, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 219-229, June 2016. Available at: Accessed April 5 2023.

[2] Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Managing risks and risk assessment at work. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2023

[3] General Dental Council (GDC). Developing the dental team. April 8, 2021

Available at: Accessed April 5, 2023.

[4] Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Legislation. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2023.

[5] Fire safety in the workplace. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2023.

[6] Care Quality Commission (CQC). Regulations for service providers and managers: related legislation. Regulation 15: Premises and equipment. Available at: Accessed April 11, 2023.

[7] General Dental Council (GDC). Standards for the dental team. September 2013. Available at: Accessed April 5 2023.

[8] Employment contracts. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2023.

[9] Care Quality Commission (CQC). Dental mythbuster 1: Use and disposal of dental amalgam. November 3, 2022. Available at:,by%20dental%20practitioners%20is%20prohibited. Accessed April 5, 2023.

[10] British Dental Association (BDA). Dental amalgam. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2023.

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