- OSHA Healthcare Advisor - http://blogs.hcpro.com/osha -

Ask the expert: Drinking on the job, sort of

Q: Our hospital is stating that drinks at desks are not allowed ANYWHERE in the facility. My question revolves around the business offices where there is no risk of occupational exposure. Does OSHA have a ruling on that?

A: Wow, anywhere in the hospital sounds a bit extreme. OSHA bloodborne pathogens,1910.1030(d)(2)(ix) [1], states: “Eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses are prohibited in work areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure.”

The “reasonable likelihood” application usually has to do with nurse’s stations or other transition work areas caught between obviously potentially-exposed and non-exposed workplaces, as reflected by the two letters of interpretation [2] linked to that section of the standard.

Of course your employer may create, for sake of professional image, a facility-wide policy prohibiting drinks and food at work stations and should explain it as such. To pin it on OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard, especially in a business office setting, is misleading.

Do you find the Q&A like the one above helpful to your OSHA compliance program?
If so, download the special report OSHA FAQ: Compliance for Ambulatory Healthcare Settings from the OSHA Healthcare Advisor Tools page. [3]