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.

September 4, 1992

The Honorable Tom Daschle
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Daschle:

This is in further response to your letter of July 21, on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Mark Bruggom, in which you requested information on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens." Specifically, you asked for information about OSHA regulations that "prevent nurses from consuming beverages at their nurses stations." Please accept our apology for the delay in this response.

Paragraph (d)(2)(ix) of 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.

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.

You also asked, "Are there any provisions in this OSHA standard to ease the burden of these regulations on health care providers?" The Bloodborne Pathogens standard is designed to protect the nation's workers, particularly health care workers, from exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Of these two diseases hepatitis B is more common, with 8,700 cases per year among workers in the health care profession. Hepatitis B infection may result in serious illness, potential long term disability and death. The HIV virus causes AIDS, for which there currently is no cure and which eventually results in death. These viruses, as well as other organisms that cause bloodborne diseases, are found in human blood and certain other human body fluids. Therefore, employers have a particular responsibility to ensure that workers do not come into direct contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials while performing their job.

We understand that complying with this standard is a matter of concern, and that most American health care professionals follow safe practices; however, the risks of illness and death from HBV and HIV for workers are too great to ignore and they mandate the full employee protection and training required by the standard.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs