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.

October 24, 1996

Honorable Tillie K. Fowler
413 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congresswoman Fowler:

This is in response to your request for clarification of the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 29 CFR 1910.141(b)(1) concerning potable water.

"Potable water" is defined in Section 1910.141(a)(2) as: water which meets the quality standards prescribed in the U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards, published in 42 CFR Part 72
1, or water which is approved for drinking purposes by the State or local authority having jurisdiction.

If the water beauty salons use for drinking, washing of the person, and personal service rooms meets the above definition of potable water, then OSHA's sanitation standard (29 CFR 1910.141) is satisfied. The standard itself does not require testing of the water, nor does it bar the use of bottled water (which would be an expensive alternative). A copy of 1910.141 is attached.

However, upon reading your constituent's letter dated August 18, it appears that many small public water systems in the state of Florida may have been found to not meet the above definition of potable water. This could be either because they did not meet the U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards published in 45 CFR Part 72, or did not meet state or local standards for drinking water. If that was the case, then that could be the reason why the Florida legislature made drastic revision to the Florida code which governs small public water systems around the state. These revisions go beyond the issue of employee health to that of public health.

I hope this is of use to you and your constituents.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs





142 CFR Part 72 as it appears in 1910.141(a)(2) has been redesignated to 21 CFR 1240.3(m) and 1250.3(j). The source of this redesignation is the Federal Register dated February 6, 1975. EPA regulations on potable water are codified at 40 CFR Part 141, National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. [ back to text ]

[Corrected 11/12/2003]