OSHA’s Field Operations Manual, CPL-02-00-150, states that a “citation under 1910.141(g)(2) and (4) shall be issued when there is reasonable probability that, in areas where employees consume food or beverages (including drinking fountains), a significant quantity of a toxic material may be ingested and subsequently absorbed.”
In a letter of interpretation (Fairfax to Vasta, December 3, 2009), OSHA states that drinking liquids (coffee and water) in the same workspace where acetone and paint thinner are used would be citable. OSHA’s basis for this interpretation is that the Safety Data Sheets for acetone and paint thinner list adverse health effects if the chemicals are ingested.
In other words, no deadly chemical concentrations are necessary for OSHA to issue a citation. Consumption of food or drink in a workspace where hazardous chemicals are consumed would constitute a violation in OSHA’s eyes.
Unlike what I would think a regulation means when it prohibits eating while working with a toxic chemical, the specific definition of a toxic material” in 29 CFR 1910.141(g)(2) is : 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.
So, this definition does not describe the conditions facing a typical lab worker eating a sandwich at a desk in a research lab. There is no reason for a student, or even a postdoc, to be exposed to a potentially deadly concentration of a chemical, either before, during or after lunch on a college campus.
For day to day operations in a research lab, we have the following worked into our policies:
Eating, Studying and Other Social Activities
It must be recognized that in the absence of a convenient, nearby area specifically set aside for eating, studying, and other social activities, that the laboratory area will be used for these purposes. An area within the laboratory may be set aside and clearly defined where these activities are permissible and these activities must be strictly prohibited outside this area. An educational program, based on the actual risks within the laboratory, should be established by the laboratory supervisor and reviewed with each new employee and graduate student. The actual use of the laboratory for these purposes should be discouraged as much as possible. In certain high risk facilities, such uses must, in fact, be prohibited and alternative convenience areas established. Examples of such high risk areas would be carcinogenic research laboratories, biological research laboratories and radiological laboratories. Under no circumstances are eating or drinking to be allowed in undergraduate academic laboratories or work areas which use chemicals or hazardous materials.
Edward M.. Movitz
Research & Environmental Compliance Officer / FSO
The University of Mississippi
100 Health and Safety Building
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677-1848
O:+1-662-915-5433 | F: 662-915-5480
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From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu]
on behalf of James Saccardo [James.Saccardo**At_Symbol_Here**CSI.CUNY.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, August 06, 2015 4:00 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Combating Food in student Research Laboratories
I was wondering if anyone could share and methods they currently use of have used in the past to combat and discourage the storage and consumption of food and drink in the laboratory.
Has anyone come across the following in a laboratory: Microwave / water cooler / beverage refrigerator? How did you rectify the situation?
What is an appropriate penalty for anyone that “consumes food or beverages in any area exposed to a toxic material” (29 CFR 1910.141(g)(2)).
James Saccardo, MS, CHMM
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