It is intended to prevent the ingestion of toxic or infectious materials. The food will absorb the vapors from the chemicals in the refrigerator and then they’ll be consumed.
Post a clear warning sign on any chemical refrigerator: “Chemicals Only; Do Not Store Your Food Here.”
Assign one person the responsibility for each refrigerator. They can check it periodically to be sure there’s no food and no unlabeled containers. They can also see that the inventory list is up to date, the refrigerator is functioning properly and does not need to be defrosted.
A related problem is caused by carrying a pack of cigarettes in your pocket while working in laboratories. The tobacco adsorbs chemicals from the air (like a dosimeter). Then when you go outside to “clean air,” the adsorbed chemicals are burned and inhaled. Illnesses have been traced to the inhalation of these chemical combustion products.
The storage of food and beverages where they may be exposed to hazardous substances is specifically prohibited in the OSHA sanitation standard, 29CFR1910.141(g)2/4.
Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute, www.labsafetyinstitute.org .
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