December 3, 2009
Mr. Michael W. Vasta
DCMA Boeing Philadelphia
P.O. Box 16859, MS P23-50
Philadelphia, PA 19142-0859
Dear Mr. Vasta:
Thank you for your May 27, 2009, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been forwarded to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for a response. You had a specific question regarding OSHA regulations that address an employer's obligations that deal with drinking liquids and hazardous chemicals in the same work area. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of only the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased scenario and questions are below, followed by our responses.
Scenario: You indicate that a potential hazard exists at your place of employment because chemicals such as acetone and paint thinner are used in the same workspace where beverages such as coffee and water are consumed.
Question: Are there any OSHA standards which regulate food and/or beverages from being consumed in the same work area where known hazardous chemicals are used?
Reply: Yes. OSHA's Sanitation standard governing eating and drinking areas, 29 CFR 1910.141 (g)(2) states, "No employee shall be allowed to consume food or beverages...in any area exposed to a toxic material." The term toxic material is defined under 29 CFR 1910.141(a)(2) meaning: a material in concentration or amount...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.
With respect to your operations where acetone and paint thinner are being utilized, both are recognized as capable of causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
To explain, the health hazard information can be found under the hazard identification section of the MSDS you provided for each hazardous material as follows:
Per the MSDS for Acetone: Harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Causes irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Affects central nervous system (CNS).
Per the MSDS for Paint Thinner: [ingestions] gastrointestinal irritation. abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers the above health effects capable of causing death or serious physical ham and would therefore, based on the MSDSs provided, expect that food and beverages not be consumed in locations where these materials are used [when there is reasonable probability that a significant quantity may be ingested and subsequently absorbed (see OSHA Field Operations Manual, CPL 02-00-150, p 4-45).]
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 Health Enforcement at (202)693-2190.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
[Amended: April 13, 2012]