OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

April 21, 1992

The Honorable Larry E. Craig
United States Senate
Attention: Nicole L. Gaul
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Craig:

This is in response to your letter of March 2, addressed to the former Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Gerard Scannell. You wrote on behalf of your constituent, Dr. S. C. Taylor.

Dr. Taylor was concerned that 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens", prohibited "drinking of coffee and eating of food in our office".

This regulation prohibits the consumption of food and drink in areas in which work involving exposure or potential exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material exists, or where the potential for contamination of work surfaces exists. The prohibition against eating and drinking in such a work area is consistent with other OSHA standards and is good industrial hygiene practice.

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.

Dr. Taylor 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.

We hope this information is responsive to your constituent's concerns. Thank you for your interest in worker safety and health.


Dorothy L. Strunk
Acting Assistant Secretary

cc: Washington, D.C. Office