Where can I find the requirement regarding staff not having food and drinks in patient care areas?

Ask The Expert, September 8, 2004

The wording is fairly succinct under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens standard included in the Engineering and Work Practice Controls section of the standard.

The standard section 1910.1030(d)(2)(ix) says, "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."

Also, 1910.1030(d)(2)(x) says, 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.

Prohibition means the practice can not occur in work areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure. To convince a surveyor that a patient care area doesn't have a reasonable likelihood of an exposure is difficult.

If your staff area is relatively isolated from the patient care area (a break room or such), then that should be okay.

As far as keeping a lid on things, it is virtually impossible to consume beverages or food without somehow breaching the lid. It's not good practice.

Bottom line is you don't want to allow folks to increase their personal risk, because then you run the risk of an increased liability if something happens.

There are precedents indicating that you'd receive credit for your efforts to ensure staff conduct themselves appropriately. But it's not worth the tumult you'll experience if there's an exposure because someone had a cup of coffee at the nurses' station and a patient came.

Ask the Expert features advice from Steven MacArthur, a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Marblehead, MA. If you have additional questions or require further information, please feel free to contact him at smacarthur@greeley.com