The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the standards for workplace safety which apply to food trucks and the commercial kitchens they operate from. Failure to meet these standards can result in steep fines, civil lawsuits, and even the closure of your mobile food business until conditions are improved. Ensuring your food truck is in compliance with OSHA’s regulations should be a top priority in the management of your business.
Though the notion of a government department having the authority to shut down your food truck may be intimidating, OSHA standards aren’t unreasonable. In fact, standards largely follow the same set of guidelines you likely already have in place in order to provide a safe location for customers and employees.
Some of these OSHA standards include:
- Organized, sanitary workplaces, storage areas, kept dry and free of debris, and loose flooring
- Unobstructed exit routes and emergency evacuation plans
- Operational ventilation systems
- Safe handling and storage of hazardous materials, such as cleaning products
- Potable, or drinkable, water, and working sinks
- Safe operation of all mechanical equipment to ensure employee safety
- Examination of all potentially harmful equipment on a routine basis
OSHA food truck inspections
OSHA covers both public and private companies, and may conduct an inspection of any business at any time. Conditions of imminent danger, major workplace accidents, worker complaints and high injury rates at a food truck are top OSHA priorities, according to OSHA enforcement.
If OSHA inspectors come to your food truck or commercial kitchen, they may be looking for one specific violation, though they will likely inspect the entire space to look for failure to meet other regulations while they are there. Each violation an OSHA compliance officer finds can result in a fine. OSHA fines can be between $5,000 and $70,000 for a single violation.
Compliance with OSHA standards
Though the consequences for violating OSHA standards can be steep, as a food truck owner, you shouldn’t look at OSHA as the enemy. The agency’s focus is on ensuring the safety of your employees, not on putting you out of business.
Since walking surfaces must be free of protruding screws, rivets and loose flooring to meet OSHA standards, you may choose to forego the cheap flooring and inspect your floors regularly to make sure all of the bumps you’ve driven over haven’t loosened the floors or their mounting hardware.
OSHA inspectors want to make sure hood and ventilation systems work properly, so it makes sense to have them inspected at least once a year.
Since the water in your truck must be drinkable, you might outfit your refrigerator(s) with a filtration system, so that you don’t have to depend upon the safety of the tap water you fill your truck with daily.
By taking minor steps toward creating the healthiest, safest environment you can for food truck employees you need not worry about OSHA. Minimum OSHA requirements are met with minimal work. Read OSHA’s guidelines and you’ll probably find that you’re already in compliance with most of them. And if you do find areas where you need to make a change, act quickly, so you can be confident you’re ready for an OSHA inspection.