OSHA Regulations and COVID

bunnspecial

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So, just as an interesting observation but something relevant to me, but OSHA maintains some specific requirements for facilities in the workplace.

One of those is in regard to potable drinking water.

OSHA regulations specifically state

1915.88(b)
Potable water.

1915.88(b)(1)
The employer shall provide potable water for all employee health and personal needs and ensure that only potable water is used for these purposes.

1915.88(b)(2)
The employer shall provide potable drinking water in amounts that are adequate to meet the health and personal needs of each employee.

1915.88(b)(3)
The employer shall dispense drinking water from a fountain, a covered container with single-use drinking cups stored in a sanitary receptacle, or single-use bottles. The employer shall prohibit the use of shared drinking cups, dippers, and water bottles.

I take these to read that basically

1. Employers are required to provide a source of potable water

2. There are three things specified that meet this requirement-water fountains, something equivalent to a water cooler or other source of water IF disposable, single use cups are provided, or bottled water.

3. What the regulations do not state, and what I've been told as a typical interpretation, is that bathroom sinks DO NOT constitute an appropriate source of potable water. In addition, I could see an argument for something like a kitchen sink provided that the disposable single use cup requirement is met.

The problem I've seen is that most of the workplaces where I've been satisfy this requirement by water fountains. Virtually everywhere, water fountains have been shut down because of COVID, and my workplace is no exception.

I drink a lot of water through the day, and since going back in to the office, I've been carting in my own bottled water(however communal refrigerators where I can keep it cold are also out of use). This has been especially true on our 90º+ days

Still, though, my workplace is violating OSHA regulations at least by my interpretation. When I've raised the issue, they have claimed that it's "okay" because they have bottle fillers, however they are placed sporadically(the closest one to me is in the basement of the next building over). They also say that it's "unsafe" to turn the water fountains back on. Also, bottle fillers don't satisfy the requirements because they require you to supply your own bottle(not an issue for me, but still...).

The problem is that even though we were all careful about touch surfaces early on, it's now been found that it's not actually a concern.


From what I can find, at least one state, Minnesota, has stated it's perfectly safe to use water fountains

Although there is lingering concern over Legionaire's and other things in water that's been stagnant in the pipes for a long time.

I'm mostly ranting, but at the same time this has turned into a big deal for me the last few days as my stock of bottled water has run out and there's no easy way for me to get it in without a long trek from the parking lot...
 

Herdfan

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I never really thought about it because I provide bottled water and my guys know they can put water/gatorade on the company card without issue, just save the receipt.

What I don't know is who decided water fountains were unsafe. Was it the CDC? Or was it monkey see, monkey do when one company did it, so another did it and so on.

I have to think that even if the CDC ordered it, companies must adjust to stay in compliance with OSHA.

So why are communal refrigerators out of use? That is one I haven't seen.
 

Alli

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Schools for some unfathomable reason, do not fall under OSHA guidelines. The water fountains in schools remain turned off and for the first time in decades, students are encouraged to bring their own water. The same students who get free breakfast and lunch. There is a failure here somewhere.
 

bunnspecial

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Schools for some unfathomable reason, do not fall under OSHA guidelines. The water fountains in schools remain turned off and for the first time in decades, students are encouraged to bring their own water. The same students who get free breakfast and lunch. There is a failure here somewhere.

Interesting and I wonder if colleges do.

I'm PRETTY sure OSHA inspects places like our maintenance and grounds shops. They usually leave the academic buildings alone, however labs can be a target. We don't have research labs here, but still.

Years ago, I did an internship with a research facility connected to the University of Kentucky("connected" as in the hiring was done through the university HR and my pay stubs/pay checks said University of Kentucky at the top) and OSHA was a big deal there to the point that they had annual inspections.

As for this situation-I did fortunately today learn of an ice machine and a sink next to it that are still operational and I do have a key to the room.

Communal refrigerators have been cut because of "items from peoples homes being in proximity to one another."

I'm not downplaying COVID at all and never will(I've fortunately missed it directly and hope that I will thanks to the vaccine and other precautions) but other people close to me including my dad have been affected. Still, though, I feel like far too many other things have been thrown by the wayside in the wake of it. My wife is a nurse, and among other things they've become so laser-focused on COVID that people who have serious other issues have been shuffled to the bottom of the pile and also in some cases as it relates to COVID, HIPAA has gone out the window.
 

SuperMatt

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Interesting and I wonder if colleges do.

I'm PRETTY sure OSHA inspects places like our maintenance and grounds shops. They usually leave the academic buildings alone, however labs can be a target. We don't have research labs here, but still.

Years ago, I did an internship with a research facility connected to the University of Kentucky("connected" as in the hiring was done through the university HR and my pay stubs/pay checks said University of Kentucky at the top) and OSHA was a big deal there to the point that they had annual inspections.

As for this situation-I did fortunately today learn of an ice machine and a sink next to it that are still operational and I do have a key to the room.

Communal refrigerators have been cut because of "items from peoples homes being in proximity to one another."

I'm not downplaying COVID at all and never will(I've fortunately missed it directly and hope that I will thanks to the vaccine and other precautions) but other people close to me including my dad have been affected. Still, though, I feel like far too many other things have been thrown by the wayside in the wake of it. My wife is a nurse, and among other things they've become so laser-focused on COVID that people who have serious other issues have been shuffled to the bottom of the pile and also in some cases as it relates to COVID, HIPAA has gone out the window.
The sad thing is, if everybody had done their civic duty and gotten the vaccine, healthcare workers COULD be focused on something else right now.

A lot of Americans love living in a free country, but they aren’t willing to do anything to benefit the country. No sense of responsibility whatsoever. This attitude is literally killing thousands.
 
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