San Luis Obispo dentist cited for safety violations
March 18, 2015
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.