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OSHA Drinking Water Rules

OSHA. There are many words associated with hearing that acronym. If you are a business, you may stiffen a bit. If you are an employee, you may feel relief. If you are human, you may yawn.

But, OSHA drinking water requirements do not have to scare you or put you to sleep. The standards are positive and easy to understand if you group them by subject and take a moment to simplify each point.

That is precisely what we have done in this article regarding OSHA requirements for drinking water in the workplace.

What is OSHA?

In 1970 the Occupational Safety and Health Act established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; known to most as OSHA. OSHA is here to make sure businesses provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. OSHA has established a long set of standards to which employers must adhere or face fines and other repercussions. Included are several rules regarding drinking water.

distillata driver unloading 5-gallon water bottle from van

What are OSHA drinking water regulations?

  • You must provide potable water (drinkable according to the U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards).
  • You must allow your employees to drink the water and in fact, you should encourage them to do so.
  • You may not ask employees to pay for water.
  • Potable water will suffice as long as it tastes good and is chilled to about 55 degrees.
  • Water should be dispensed from a drinking fountain or water cooler.
  • You do not have to provide bottled water if tap water meets the standards listed above.
  • Water dispensers should close tightly and have a tap.
  • Bottles or containers should be labeled for drinking and not used for anything else.
  • You must provide cups.
  • You should discourage employees from sharing cups.
  • If you provide paper cups, they should be stored for use in a sanitary manner, and a wastebasket should be provided for spent cups.
  • Any non-potable water should be labeled as such.
  • You must make sure that water is easily accessible.
  • You should encourage workers to drink often, especially in extreme heat.
filling bottle from water cooler dispenser

Still have questions? Check out these FAQs for further clarification.

What are OSHA construction site drinking water requirements?

The rules do not change based on industry. Instead, it is a matter of heat. OSHA is particularly adamant about allowing your team to drink plenty of water to avoid heat-related illnesses. 

What are OSHA drinking water label requirements?

Labeling must be used to differentiate potable water (drinkable) from non-potable water (not drinkable). It is best to label all sides with large, bright letters. Your goal is to make sure your staff does not drink from non-potable water and get sick as a result. 

Do you have to provide drinking water for employees?

Yes, you do. 

drinking water from a glass distillata water bottle

Is it legal to deny employees water?

No, it is not. It is ok to restrict drinking areas such as sales associates on the sales floor. Or dangerous spots in manufacturing plants or construction sites. But, you must then allow for frequent breaks to drink water. 

Are businesses required to give free water?

Yes, you may not ask employees to pay for drinking water. 

What if my business does not have running water?

You must provide bottled water (plenty for everyone). A bottled water cooler is the easiest solution but, don’t forget the cups!

Follow those rules, and you can sleep well, knowing that you have provided a healthy and safe workplace. Plus, you will positively affect your bottom line. It has been proven over and over that well-hydrated employees are more productive, efficient, have higher levels of concentration, and avoid costly mistakes. Oh, and you will not face any OSHA fines. To be sure your plan fully adheres to their guidelines, it is always a good idea to ask for a review.

Additional resources:

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