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Staff Food and Drink in Patient Care Areas

Are food, drink, and personal items for staff members allowed in patient care and staff work areas, such as nurse stations, registration areas, etc?

Any examples are for illustrative purposes only.

The Joint Commission is not prescriptive where staff can have food or drink in work areas.   The Joint Commission references OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (1910.130) applies to occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials in healthcare settings.  All organizations must follow this requirement. Standard LD.04.01.01 requires that health care organizations follow licensure requirements, laws, and regulations, including OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. 
Specifically, OSHA's regulation prohibits the consumption of food and drink in areas where work involving exposure or potential exposure to blood or other potentially infectious or toxic material exists, or where the potential for contamination of work surfaces exists.  In patient care areas such as but not limited to:
  • Refrigerators 
  • Cabinets 
  • Shelves 
  • Counters 
OSHA requires that health care organizations evaluate the workplace to determine locations where potential contamination may occur and prohibit employees from eating or drinking in those areas.  

Health care organizations retain the ability to define and establish safe eating areas for staff members.  An evaluation will determine what work areas represent the risks for contamination to food and drinks.  Based on this assessment, organizations can designate a safe space for staff to eat or drink.

For example, an organization may determine that a nurse or physician station or other location is physically separated from other work areas subject to contamination and therefore reasonable to anticipate that occupational exposure is not likely.  
Keep in mind that while OSHA regulations apply to all health care facilities, local health departments may have additional requirements that health care organizations must comply with. 

Additional Resources
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030 Bloodborne Pathogens
Perspectives Article (March 2019)
Manual: Assisted Living Community
Chapter: Environment of Care EC
First published date: April 11, 2016 This Standards FAQ was first published on this date.
This page was last updated on October 19, 2021

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