San Luis Obispo dentist cited for safety violations

March 18, 2015
Robert and Robyn Flores

Robert and Robyn Flores

By KAREN VELIE

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed penalties totaling $8,100 against a San Luis Obispo dentist the state agency said failed to protect its workers and patients from blood borne pathogens and to properly maintain equipment.

In the March 13 citation and notification of penalty, OSHA said that Robert S. Flores DMD committed five safety and health violations, one of which was deemed serious. According to OSHA, a violation is considered serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

In May 2014, a complaint filed against R&R Dental Care reported its owner, Flores, for failing to properly maintain a hygienist patient chair. However, Efren Gomez, the OSHA inspector assigned the case, did not perform a physical inspection; instead he relied on a letter from Flores claiming the chair was not broken and that the complaint was made by a disgruntled employee.

On June 2, Gomez sent Flores a letter telling him the case was closed.

A second complaint was sent to several of Gomez’ superiors that said he failed to properly investigate the allegations. The case was then reopened, and during a Dec. 2 inspection, OSHA discovered the chair was still broken and cited Flores for not maintaining it in a safe operating condition, according to OSHA documents.

In addition, Flores failed to implement or follow safety guidelines set in place to protect patients and employees from diseases and blood borne pathogens, the citation says. For example, in order to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis, needles are to be disposed in a container that is replaced as necessary to avoid overflowing, the citation says.

But Flores would have employees overfill the sharps containers reducing the frequency of disposal by his disposal service provider, and saving Flores money. During the time of the original complaint, Robert Flores and his wife Robyn Flores were in the process of opening a second R&R Dental Care office in Arroyo Grande.

During the 2014 investigation, Robert Flores was president of the Central Coast Dental Society.

“The Central Coast Dental Society is a professional association of dentists who are committed to the enhancement of the oral health education and dental welfare of the public,” the society’s website says. “CCDS is committed to the promotion of professionalism and quality in dentistry.”

Flores has until March 28 to either appeal the citation or pay a 50 percent reduced penalty of $4,050 and to produce documentation that he has remedied the violations.

Flores did not return requests for comment.


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25 Comments

  1. Redsoxman says:

    I am also a patient of Doc Flores, and I find him to be knowledgeable, caring, and up on the latest dental technology. I’m going with the “disgruntled ex-employee” theory as the reason he was put under the OSHA spotlight. It would be nice, though, for him or his wife to comment on the situation, as playing the “no comment” game usually leads to conjecture, false accusations, and misunderstandings about what actually happened, what was found, and what was/is being done to rectify the situation.

    (8) 18 Total Votes - 13 up - 5 down
    • askedmyself says:

      I wasn’t sure about this article, so I waited until my next appointment to check things out for myself. Sure enough, there was a new chair when I had my cleaning. I’m thinking it was a “disgruntled employee” that contacted OSHA, but what I don’t understand is how they became responsible for the doctor lying to them. Strange.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. Teddysmom says:

    The serious offense was the sharps container. I’m pretty sure the writer would have told you if the instruments weren’t clean. As for sharps container I used to work in dental office. Things break and are fixed again. Broken chair doesn’t seem that big of a deal. The article doesn’t say if chair is still broken or not.

    (0) 18 Total Votes - 9 up - 9 down
  3. sloyal says:

    I regard these two as very kind and good people. I do not believe there is any malicious bone in either of them, and I hope their customers stay loyal to them, and what needs to get fixed just gets fixed.

    (4) 26 Total Votes - 15 up - 11 down
  4. grainofsalt says:

    Dr. Rob Flores is my Dentist and I stand by him and Dr. Robyn Flores. I know of 2 other local dentists in the last few years who have had OSHA visits – both of which occurred after an employee was fired. I am guessing that is the case here as well. I will admit I am biased as an employer myself and for having friends in the dental and medical field, but really, would any patient know to call OSHA, or would even want to, if a dental chair needed repair? As minor as this may seem in the scope of treating patients at a Dental or Medical office, OSHA LOOKS FOR EVERYTHING once they are forced to come in and perform an on-site visit. So, if this is all they could find that could be cited, then GOOD JOB to Rob and Robyn for staying up to code! Again, to put this in perspective, after submitting to a full on-site inspection from a very powerful CAL OSHA, all that was found was one chair in need of repair and a few too full sharps containers, then I think all the patients who go to this office should consider themselves in good hands. Good luck and hang in there Drs Flores- just another day in the life of being an employer in California. Also, I will call you…Im due for my cleaning. :)

    (10) 32 Total Votes - 21 up - 11 down
    • Ms. Rumphius says:

      It may be disgruntled or recently fired employee. Sadly, employees need their job and don’t have the capacity to follow through on a complaint to OSHA – their job would be in jeopardy. Employees often overlook violations or unsafe work environments for the sake of a paycheck. I hope the Drs. are able to remedy the situation soon.

      (8) 18 Total Votes - 13 up - 5 down
  5. Teddysmom says:

    It seems odd that they would tell their employees to overfill the sharps container. They are usually picked up evey few months and stay below the fill line. If Flores as you put it declined to comment how do you know that is true? And he and his wife are Drs and deserve the respect to be addressed as such. Since the “Drs” just acquired another office I would bet the money to pay to have sharps container is not an issue. As for dirty instruments as previously posted by Swiftgorilla that too would’ve been included in citation and that was not included in the article. So maybe you owe the “Drs” an apology

    (-1) 23 Total Votes - 11 up - 12 down
    • swiftgorilla says:

      How would you know they are picked up every few months and stay well below the fill line??? Since Dr. Flores declined to comment, we know it’s true because OSHA found it! The article says there were five violations found – but only talks about two of them – I don’t owe the doctors an apology, I don’t owe them anything.

      The chair was reported to be broken in May of 2014, Efren Gomez closed the case in June 2014. When OSHA finally did the inspection in March of 2015 – THE CHAIR WAS STILL BROKEN! Obviously Dr. Flores had no intention of repairing it. Perhaps now he will.

      (3) 19 Total Votes - 11 up - 8 down
      • lalaloopsy says:

        Most offices have a schedule service to pick up sharps containers. The company may have been coming the next day. The fact the chair was broken again does not mean they had no intentions of fixing it. Again medical and dental offices have people who specialize in their equipment, they have other calls that may need to be addressed first or parts may need to be ordered. Just because someone has OSHA violations does not make them bad dentist or people. Your dentist probably has violations they don’t even realize they have in the office until OSHA goes over , call OSHA to go to your dentist office and see what they find.

        (4) 18 Total Votes - 11 up - 7 down
      • frankpj says:

        Swiftgorilla, I’m not sure anyone told you that you owe them an apology. Seems that you are looking at this story almost too personally. Secondly, whoever wrote this article made broad statements that in no way would they be able to prove. That is quite frankly innappropriate and seems to be baised reporting. I look at this article as nothing but trash and gossip. As a patient of Dr. Flores, I will not hesitate to return.

        (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down

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