Accreditation Resource Services Newsletter
September 2020

CIHQ-ARS Article

Staff Food and Drink in Patient Care Areas

By: April McLain
In my 30 plus years in healthcare, one topic pops up periodically – staff food and drinks in a clinical areas, including nurse stations. Staff on both sides of the issue can sometimes become very passionate about having the ability to have food and drink available in clinical areas. What regulatory agency determines the standards that apply to staff food and drink in clinical areas?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogen Standard prohibits 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.
  • The following OSHA standards apply to staff food and drink in a patient care area: 1910.1030(d)(2)(ix) says, “Eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses are prohibited in work areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure.”
  • 1910.1030(d)(2)(x) says, “Food and drink shall not be kept in refrigerators, freezers, shelves, cabinets or on countertops or benchtops where blood or other potentially infectious materials are present.”
CMS has no specific standard that specifically addresses staff food and drinks in patient care areas. CMS at 482.11 does require that the organization be in compliance with Federal, State and Local Laws. In addition, local and state health departments may prohibit staff food and drinks in clinical areas. Therefore, the expectation from CMS is that OSHA regulations, as well as any local or state regulations are followed.
The organization is responsible for defining safe areas where staff food and drinks are allowed. When determining what areas staff food and drinks are allowed in clinical areas, the following should be considered:
  • Is the area free of contamination from potentially infectious materials, such as where specimens are collected, processed or stored?
  • Is there a likelihood of exposure or contamination?
  • Is there electronic equipment present in the area that could be damaged by a spill?
  • Are there concerns about the aesthetics and public image of the area?
The goal of defining areas that are safe for staff food and drinks is to prevent possible exposure to potential infectious materials. Areas that are potentially away from the patient care areas, such as break rooms would be appropriate areas for staff food and drink. Areas outside break rooms should be careful evaluated before allowing staff food and drinks.
During survey, the organization may be asked for its policy on staff food and drinks in clinical areas and the organization will be held to its policy. If you do allow staff food and drink in areas within the clinical unit, be prepared to provide evidence that a reasonable likelihood of an exposure is difficult.