Ask the expert: Food, specimens, and refrigerators
Q: What would be the OSHA fine for storing workers’ food in the same refrigerator as medications and specimens waiting for lab work?
A: Concerning storing employee food in a refrigerator with medications, this is not an OSHA violation. It is considered substandard infection control and vaccine storage integrity practices, so it could possible a concern with your department of health or your accreditation organization but not necessarily with OSHA.
It is a violation to store employee food with specimens. According to 1910.1030(d)(2)(x):
“Food and drink shall not be kept in refrigerators, freezers, shelves, cabinets or on countertops or benchtops where blood or other potentially infectious materials are present.”
Last year healthcare facilities cited for this specific violation of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard averaged $422 in fines. Since this is a serious violation, OSHA could impose a fine of $7,000, depending on the circumstances.
It always irks me when I get a question from a healthcare facility about using a refrigerator for both employee food and medical supplies.
Seriously, would you want to admit this practice to your patients? What would they think of your shoddy infection control practices.
If you can make a reasonable case for this practice, let us know in the comment section below, but I doubt I will be sympathetic.