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Eating at the workplace by an employee

Eating and drinking at the workplace

Eating and drinking on the job is a complicated topic - find out what the law says and learn about best practices in this area.

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The topic of consent to eat and drink on the job is quite controversial. Employers often find it difficult to clearly answer the question, “Why are some employees allowed to drink coffee or eat meals while working and others are not?”. In this article, we will provide some facts to answer this and other questions related to eating and drinking in the workplace.


Why is the topic of food and drink at workplaces controversial? 

Several reasons can be identified for the controversy surrounding the consumption of workplace meals by those in manufacturing positions.
First, the meal you eat at your workstation can become contaminated by all sorts of substances in your surroundings. These substances can be dangerous to people. Everything, of course, depends on the specifics of the production, but they can be all kinds of strong chemicals or waste generated during technological processing. In this case, it is a direct threat to the life and health of the workers who operate a particular workstation.
Another concern is the risk of damage to machinery and equipment. Eating at the workstation can expose equipment that is part of the equipment in the area to damage. Damage to equipment can also create safety risks for workers. For example, a short circuit in the electrical system can result in an electric shock to the worker operating the machine.
Eating in the workplace can also have a negative impact on the manufactured component. A worker’s dirty hands can result in streaks and dirt, which will affect the final quality of the product.
The final issue concerns aesthetic considerations. An employee eating a meal at his or her workstation can be controversial in the eyes of customers visiting the business or the people who run the company.

Workers while eating and drinking in the workplace

Eating at the workplace and the legal aspect

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations do not explicitly address the consumption of meals by employees in the workplace. An employer may allow meals to be consumed in the workplace. However, there are many considerations that need to be taken into account when setting standards and policies for eating and drinking on the job. First, there is the possibility of allowing the consumption of so-called “light meals” (e.g. sandwiches, nuts and sweets). In this case, however, an employer with more than 20 employees per shift is required to create a special place to eat. An employee cafeteria can be such a place. The most important thing, however, is a common-sense approach to the subject. It is difficult to imagine eating in a workplace where there is a high rate of dusty air or pollution. This is because it poses a potential health (or even life) risk to the employee.

Drinking at the workplace – good practice

The issue of drinking on the job looks a little different. Drinking is permitted under several conditions. First, the container, cup with the drink should be tightly closed (cap). Many companies offer their employees thermal mugs that have airtight caps. The place where the mug is put away must be labeled. And the last condition – the designated place for the cup should be specially designed for this purpose. Ideally, cups should be stored in locked cabinets. Of course, there is no question of consuming alcoholic beverages at work.

Eating and drinking at the office workstation

In each case, the primary consideration should be to ensure the safety of the employees. It is also important to limit the possibility of damage to the equipment used (keyboard, printer, computer). Solidarity with the rest of the employed staff is also a different issue. If meals are prohibited in production positions, why are these privileges available to administrative staff? After all, the example should “come from the top” – right?

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