- Standard Number:
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.
March 2, 2010
Mr. Wayne Curtis
District Manager, SE
1810 Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
Duluth, GA 30097
Dear Mr. Curtis:
Your letter postmarked June 23, 2008 to OSHA Regional Administrator, Cindy A. Coe, has been forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for an answer to your specific questions regarding 29 CFR 1910.141(g)(2) and 29 CFR 1910.141(g)(4). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.
Your questions are restated below for clarity:
Scenario: Employees working in a collision and automotive shop are storing their lunches in small refrigerators, which are located in individual workstations throughout the warehouse.
Question 1: How would OSHA interpret the meaning of "an area exposed to toxic materials" and to what extent must a food or drink be "exposed to" a toxic material to violate this regulation?
Reply: When employees are allowed to consume food or beverages on the premises, the employer must comply with OSHA's sanitation standard, 29 CFR § 1910.141(g).
Section 1910.141(g)(2) provides:
No employee shall be allowed to consume food or beverages in a toilet room or in any area exposed to a toxic material.
Section 1910.141(g)(4) provides:
No food or beverages shall be stored in toilet rooms or in an area exposed to a toxic material.
Section 1910.141(a) defines "toxic material" as "a material in concentration or amount which exceeds the applicable limit established by a standard, such as 1910.1000 and 1910.1001 or, in the absence of an applicable standard, which is of such toxicity so as to constitute a recognized hazard that is causing or is likely to cause death or serious physical harm."
The purpose of the standard is to ensure that employee food and beverages do not become contaminated by toxic materials while stored or being consumed in the workplace. An employer needs to take into account information about the materials that are being used in the workplace, their concentrations and amounts, the containers they are stored in, the way in which the materials are used, and workplace ventilation. In fact, under the hazard communications standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200, which comprehensively addresses the evaluation of and communication about potential hazards of chemicals, employers are required to have a material safety data sheet (MSDS) in the workplace for each hazardous chemical they use. See 29 CFR 1910.1200(g). MSDSs contain information about chemicals including the health hazards they pose, their routes of entry, and precautions for safe handling and use. Employers may have additional obligations under substance-specific standards, such as for exposure to chromium (VI) (hexavalent chromium). See 29 CFR 1910.1026(i)(4).
Question 2: How would an employer determine whether dust particles on surfaces such as a refrigerator used to store employee food and beverages are hazardous?
Reply: Under 29 CFR 1910.141(g)(4), no food or beverage shall be stored in toilet rooms or in an area exposed to a toxic material. As explained above, the employer needs to determine whether the dust on surfaces near areas where food and beverages are stored and consumed could contaminate the food and beverages in violation of 29 CFR 1910.141(g), or otherwise presents a hazard. If an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) were to conduct an inspection and observe a lack of adequate housekeeping or sanitation measures in a workplace with toxic materials, the CSHO may collect dust samples from surfaces and have them tested to determine whether the dust presents a hazard.
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 http://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