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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.
May 12, 2006
Mr. David Craddock
6489 Betty Avenue
Cocoa, Florida 32927-4207
Dear Mr. Craddock:
Thank you for your letter of January 16, 2006, regarding your questions about taking "comfort breaks" and/or "nature breaks" during hours of employment. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the facts discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. We apologize for the delay in responding.
You state that you are a Letter Carrier with the U.S. Postal Service and that you are allowed two ten-minute breaks during the work day. You also state that Letter Carriers are exposed to the environmental elements of heat, rain, cold, winds, and the like, and that, on occasion, it becomes necessary to get some relief from these environmental elements, especially from the summer heat and humidity in Central Florida. Your question is:
Question 1: Do I as an employee with the U.S. Postal Service have the right to take a "comfort break"?
Response: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a standard specifically addressing comfort breaks, or weather-related heat/cold stress. However, we recognize the importance of protecting employees from exposure to the weather when it would be a health or safety hazard. As such, our website (www.osha.gov) provides guidance on the recognition, evaluation, and control of heat stress and cold stress hazards, and appropriate compliance actions. For information on heat stress, click on "H" at the top of the page. For information on cold stress, type "cold stress" in the search box. Several related documents on heat and cold stress are also enclosed with this letter.
Question #2 regarding "nature breaks."
Response: In your letter you mentioned "nature breaks" but you did not ask any question with regard to these breaks. OSHA's general industry's sanitation standard, 29 CFR §1910.141 states that employers are to provide toilet and handwashing facilities for their employees, but Section 1910.141(c)(1)(ii) states, "The requirements [requiring employers to provide toilet facilities] do not apply to mobile crews or to normally unattended work locations so long as employees working at these locations have transportation immediately available to nearby toilet facilities . . ." Letter Carriers going from residence to residence or business to business could fall under this exception.
We recommend you first discuss your concerns regarding "comfort breaks" and/or "nature breaks" with your employer. If you wish to talk about your concerns with an OSHA compliance officer, you can contact OSHA's local area office. The closest OSHA office to you is in Tampa.
Les Grove, Area Director
5807 Breckenridge Pkwy, Suite A
Tampa, FL 33610
Telephone: (813) 626-1177
Fax: (813) 626-7015
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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 www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at 202-693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs