Ask the expert: When in doubt—or ignorant—blame it on OSHA

By: July 1st, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: Is it an OSHA regulation that a carry-out coffee with a lid on the container cannot be brought into the ICU unit of a hospital? I was advised by the staff today that it was. My husband has been in several hospitals over the last three months and this is the first time I heard this. Please advise.

A: Unless the person drinking the coffee is an employee of the healthcare facility, it is not an OSHA violation, as OSHA only regulates employee safety.

There may be good infection control and patient safety reasons to prohibit food and drink in an ICU. Those policies are set by individual hospitals, usually based on recognized national guidelines, and they may vary from facility to facility, but not because of OSHA regulations.

I’m sorry that the source who cited the reason was obviously ignorant of what OSHA does and also unfamiliar with the internal policies of his or her own facility.

You and the patient deserved a better and accurate response.


By Ajaz Fakhri on July 3rd, 2011 at 12:30 am

These carry out coffee containers with lid gives excuses for bringing the coffee in nursing station.Although mostly ward has designated staff pantry for tea and coffee.
Do you allow your doctors and nurses to bring their coffee cups in nursing station? when they have excuses,they are busy,containers are closed,they do not take coffe cup inside patient rooms and some time says they do not drink but when ever they get chance they take sips

Although it ends up in massive unsanitation ,environment hygiene,microbes growth,insect,bed bugs/cockroaches

By Carol Hutchinson on January 12th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I enforce no food,drinks, medicines, makeup, etc. in lab and phlebotomy areas. My office and the lab reception area are designated as safe areas with “No PPE or biohazard materials allowed in this area” posted. But, this is a clinic where each nurse station has a urine analzyer and the nurses perform POCT strep and flu. Would OSHA consider these biohazard areas since there are no blood samples tested? The nurses want to have drinks at their stations. Should they be out the area entirely or a certain distance away from where the testing occurs?

By David LaHoda on January 12th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Some of this depends on what you exposure control plan says. If you exposure control plan call for standard precautions rather than universal precautions, where urine is not OPIM, then potential exposure due to eating and drinking where urine analysis procedures are performed could be an OSHA violation.

Check the OSHA interpretation letter “Bloodborne pathogens standard’s relationship to beverage consumption at nurses stations” that says:

“In addition to contamination of the food itself, one must consider that food and beverage containers may also become contaminated, resulting in unsuspected contamination of the hands. Food and drink may be contaminated by such processes as the leakage or spillage of specimen containers, or the performance of activities that could generate splashes, sprays, or droplets of blood or other potentially infectious materials.

The employer/practitioner is free to designate areas in which it is not reasonable to anticipate that occupational exposure will occur and to allow the consumption of food and beverage in those areas. OSHA will evaluate such designations on a case-by-case basis and anticipates that such areas will be separated from contaminated work areas.”

It’s only my opinion, but I can’t see why anyone would want to drink or eat in areas where the procedures you identify are performed. But that’s me.


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