Does OSHA Prohibit Eating and Drinking in the Workplace?

Question: Does OSHA prohibit eating or drinking any food or beverage in the workplace?  Many people have reported that their employer or manager has told them that OSHA rules prohibit having any food or anything to drink where they work. 

Answer: The best answer to the question of food and beverages (eating and drinking in the workplace) has to do with the hazards and potential for hazard that this would bring. All OSHA standards require that employers evaluate workplace hazards and determine whether what is required to ensure safety and health of employees.

For example, 29CFR 1910.142 requires that no employee be allowed to have food or beverages in an area where they could be contaminated with toxic or infectious materials. Obviously, it would not be appropriate to eat and drink in proximity to chemicals, such as at pesticide factory in the production area, but employees in an average bank, could (under OSHA) safely drink a coke at their desk.

29 CFR 1910.142 could also be interpreted to mean that lunches, snacks or drinks may not be stored in a cabinet or refrigerator with chemicals. So if you work in a lab, you definitely would not be allowed to store your lunch, Coke or other soda pops in a refrigerator with radioactive materials, biological agents (such as virus samples, bacteria, etc.) or chemicals.

Summary

OSHA does not have a rule that flatly prohibits workers eating or drinking in the workplace.  Each workplace is different and the employer has the responsibility to evaluate the particular hazards  and make a reasonable determination.

References:

Regulations:

Interpretations:

1.    1992 - 04/21/1992 - Eating and drinking in area where potentially infectious material exists  View HTML Document  12k
April 21, 1992 The Honorable Larry E. Craig United States Senate Attention: Nicole L. Gaul Washington, D.C. 20510 Dear Senator Craig: This is in response to your letter of March 2, addressed to the f...
http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=20636   
Category: Standard Interpretations   Score: 73

 
2.    1992 - 08/25/1992 - Eating and drinking in doctors' waiting rooms.  View HTML Document  12k
August 25, 1992 The Honorable J. James Exon United States Senator 287 Federal Building 100 Centennial Mall North Lincoln, Nebraska 68508 Dear Senator Exon: This is in further response to your letter ...
http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=20808   
Category: Standard Interpretations   Score: 73
 

 

This page was updated on 22-Feb-2008