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.

February 23, 2011

Mr. Norberto Rosa
Richmond Local Office
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
830 East Main St., 6th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Mr. Rosa:

Thank you for your September 21, 2010, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding restaurant kitchen safety. Your letter has been referred to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). 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.

Question:Does wearing a skirt in a restaurant kitchen setting pose a safety hazard?

Answer:OSHA does not have a specific standard or policy addressing the wearing of skirts - any type of skirt - in a restaurant kitchen setting. In general, section 5(a)(l) of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. §654(a)(1) (general duty clause), requires employers to furnish employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees.

Unfortunately, OSHA cannot provide a more specific answer to your inquiry due to the limited amount of information provided. The degree of exposure to restaurant kitchen hazards depends on, among other factors, the work the employee is performing and the characteristics of the employee's clothing. Employees may be exposed to sharp objects and hot surfaces and substances, and risk being cut and burned. The exposure of a greater amount of skin, whether from shorts, short skirts, or short sleeves, can increase the likelihood and severity of burns from splashing hot substances. The more loose-fitting the clothing is, meanwhile, the greater the potential for the clothing to catch fire or become caught in a machine. Regardless of the potential hazard, exposure also depends upon job responsibilities. For example, a waitress picking up food orders in the kitchen is generally less exposed to the hazards there than the cooks are.

Although OSHA does not have a specific standard or policy regarding kitchen apparel, we do recommend that kitchen staff, particularly those working in close proximity to any of the various hazards described above, wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants to protect from cuts and bums. For more information on potential hazards in restaurants that relate to employee dress, please see OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/restaurant/index.html. This section of OSHA's website is directed towards protecting young workers but the information and advice is applicable to all restaurant workers. Information particularly relevant to your question is under the Cooking and Food Prep tabs.

In addition, the State of Virginia operates its own occupational safety and health program under a plan approved and monitored by Federal OSHA. Under this plan, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry promulgates and enforces occupational safety and health standards under authority of State law. Virginia generally adopts standards that are identical to Federal OSHA, and any standards that are different must be at least as effective as the Federal standards. You may contact Virginia OSHA at the following address for more information on their standards and specific hazards:

Courtney Malveaux, Commissioner
Department of Labor and Industry
Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH)
13 South 13th Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Tel: 804-786-2377, Fax: 804-371-6524
http://www.doli.virginia.gov/

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may 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.

Sincerely,

 

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs