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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 http://www.osha.gov.
August 25, 1992
The Honorable J. James Exon
United States Senator
287 Federal Building
100 Centennial Mall
North Lincoln, Nebraska 68508
Dear Senator Exon:
This is in further response to your letter of June 23, on behalf of your constituent, Dr. Robert McKeeman, in which you requested information on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens."
With respect to Dr. McKeeman's first question regarding OSHA requirements to prohibit all eating and drinking in the waiting room, we can clarify for him that OSHA's jurisdiction covers only employees of an establishment, not patients or clients. Paragraph (d)(2)(ix) of this regulation prohibits the consumption of food and drink by employees in areas of the establishment in which work involving exposure or potential exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) occurs, or where the potential for contamination of work surfaces exists.
OSHA, therefore, does not require that a doctor prohibit patients from eating or drinking, or mothers from feeding hungry babies, in the waiting room. Further, assuming that under the specific conditions in a given establishment it is not reasonably anticipated that a waiting patient could contaminate cups or other serving utensils which the employees would handle, serving those patients coffee would likewise not be prohibited.
Regarding Dr. McKeeman's concern that OSHA's compliance officers "... have to generate enough fines to pay for their wages, and for the expenses of the department ...," OSHA is funded through the normal governmental budgetary process, not through generation of fines. Section 17(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 states, "... Civil penalties owed under this Act shall be paid to the Secretary for deposit into the Treasury of the United States and shall accrue to the United States ...."
We hope this information is responsive to your concerns.
Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs