Restaurateurs breathe sigh of relief as OSHA abandons Indoor Quality Air standard

March 24, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In what the National Restaurant Association has called a victory for restaurateurs, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced it will abandon its controversial 1994 Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Standard.

The OSHA policy would have required costly ventilation changes to most U.S. restaurants.

"This standard would have greatly and unnecessarily burdened the nation's restaurants, 70 percent of which are small businesses," said Steve Grover, the NRA's vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs, in an NRA release. "(W)e believe that OSHA made the right decision in rejecting this unrealistic standard."

The proposed IAQ rules would have eliminated smoking in nearly all restaurants and U.S. workplaces. The NRA argued that each restaurant owner should establish smoking policies at each establishment, based on customer preferences.

The IAQ Standard also would have mandated regulations requiring the installation of ventilation systems for any equipment that produces odors or fumes, including, for example, warming ovens, dishwashers, hot lines and omelet stations. According to the NRA, such modifications could have cost operators $65,000 to $125,000 per restaurant.

To ensure overall HVAC system compliance to the OSHA standard, other mandated modifications would have cost $20,000 to $50,000 per restaurant, and as much as $60,000 to $150,000 at restaurants built before 1970.

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