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Ask the expert: Keeping the lid on won’t placate OSHA

Q: I know that some facilities allow beverages at nurses stations if there is a lid on the cup. To me, there is no difference between drinking from the rim of a cup vs. a little hole on top of the cup. Is this still and OSHA violation?

A: OSHA does not generally forbid consumption of beverages at nursing stations, except when blood, OPIM, or toxic substances are present.

I agree with you that exposure could occur even with lids on cups, and so does OSHA, according to a May 17, 2006 letter of interpretation, “Requirements for covered beverages at nurses’ stations,” [1]which explains that even with “a lid or cover, the container may also become contaminated, resulting in unsuspected contamination of the hands.”

This could be a violation of Bloodborne Pathogens [2] 1910.1030(d)(2)(ix) and possibly also Sanitation 1910.141(g)(2) [3], according to the letter.

With that interpretation in the hand of an OSHA inspector, it might be difficult for the employer to defend the lid-on-cup allowance.

[4]Navigating the sticky issues around mandatory flu shots [4]
Seasonal and H1N1 influenza have prompted many healthcare facilities to consider mandatory influenza immunization for employees. The reaction from employees has been unmistakably vocal, as issues of patient safety and workers’ rights clash. Join HCPro for Mandatory Influenza Vaccinations: Get Healthcare Staff Onboard at Your Facility [4] on Wednesday, July 14, at 1 p.m. (Eastern) for a 90-minute webcast that will provide you with the medical and legal perspectives for developing a mandatory influenza immunization policy.