Ask the expert: Food, specimens, and refrigerators

By: June 17th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

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.

Comments

By Ajaz Fakhri on June 18th, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Fridge used for medication,should not shared staff food and patient foods.Food can be reservoir of gems,so fridge should be dedicated only for medication.Patient foods need to store in kitchen trolley,hot food should be served hot and cold food should be served cold.No reheating to be done.Practically each ward has two fridges.

So time you need to keep for short time,water bottle containing constrast,patient want to have cold water bottles,for new borne babies in maternity area keeps baby special water,Where do you keep these fluids,some time for orthopeadics procedure you store ice used for ice packing,If these items need to stored for short time,in which fridge it need to go Meication fridge or staff food fridge.probably all these items are used for therapeutic purpose,more likely medication fridge

By Bruce Cunha on June 21st, 2011 at 10:42 am

Big issue we have is with areas where they have one medication or a single vaccine that they give. Dedicating one refrigerator for one med is an issue.

We have allowed use of sealed plastic contaners to hold small quantities of medications.

I would be interested on how others deal with small quantities of meds?

I work at a hotel. We have an employee fridge, and a fridge we keep the guest breakfast items to serve in the morning. My co-worker likes to keep their food in the hotel fridge and not the employee fridge. I’ve mentioned it to them, and they seem to think its none of my concern. Is there some rule against this? Is there anything that i can show them to make them understand?

Hi Brian,

I don’t believe that OSHA law would apply in this case, as your coworker’s choice of refrigerator probably wouldn’t put any employee at risk. Whether it might put your guests at risk is another question; if, for example, the employee brings the food in a container that they brought in from outside and thus might not be clean, but again, I don’t think OSHA would apply here.

What might apply, though, are your local (city, state or county) board of health’s regulations, or the general rules and procedures of your hotel. Management might be the best place to start here– even if no laws are being violated, they may take a dim view of keeping guest food and employee food in the same place.

By Donna Tavani on April 12th, 2013 at 9:37 am

Is there any law regulating the placement of the refrigerator containing employee food and it’s proximity to the dedicated refrigerator containing vaccines? In other words, can we have the refrigerator containing vaccines in the office kitchen where the food refrigerator is also stored? No one eats in this room, it’s merely used for storage.

By Laurie Jonsson on April 19th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

In addition to Donna’s question on proximity, can the patient food fridge be located in the staff lounge? Can staff prepare patient food there as well (i.e. pull sandwich and unwrap to serve on plate, put wrapped sandwich and sealed jello cup on tray?)

By Lori Dunbar on July 19th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Can employee food in a lunch box be stored in a refrigerator containing medications which have not been reconstituted and are also in plastic bags. There are no vaccines or specimens stored here.

I’m with Bruce above. Mine is a small derm clinic, with me as the only provider, 2 other employees. We have 2 vials of vaccines and anywhere from 1-3 boxes containing syringes of medications.

We keep these in the same fridge as our food…in a sealed Tupperware container, in one of the crisper drawers. Nothing else in that drawer. All food elsewhere in the fridge is in sealed containers.

I have no problem with this and I would have no problems outlining this practice with my patients.

Good Day Sir, I appreicat eyour comments on the seperation of food and medications in seperate refrigerators.
I have been tasked to justify whey we should do this in our facility. We have a small clinic with a med frig and I stress that all meds requiring refrigeration should be in it and not in a food frig used by numerous employees.
I wish to set a presidence here but need something in writing to enforce my direction.
Do you have a reference or can you direct me as to where I can find such guidance?
Appreciate any info.

Tony Urban
Safety Specialist

 

Leave a Comment

*

« | Home | »

Subscribe - Get blog updates via e-mail

Popular

How do you have fun while doing emergency drills?

December 19, 2014
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Guest blog: Hand in Mouth

December 16, 2014
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Expert tips on training for Ebola

December 9, 2014
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Review sharps safety with your staff!

November 19, 2014
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Keep up on the latest Ebola information

November 3, 2014
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Upcoming HCPro webcast helps prepare your facility for Ebola

October 28, 2014
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

  • test
  • HCPro Broadcast Events Calendar

hcpro.com