News Release USDOL
Thursday, June 5, 1997
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming, (202) 219-8151
California Hazard Communication Standard Receives OSHA Approval
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced approval,
subject to certain conditions, of a California state standard for labeling hazardous chemicals
and providing information on those hazards to workers exposed to the chemicals.
OSHA's approval of California's hazard communication standard is intended to clarify
concerns about the extent to which the California standard covers out-of-state manufacturers,
importers and distributors. It also outlines employer compliance provisions. The decision is
premised on OSHA's understanding that, under state law, compliance with state or federal
hazard communication standards constitutes compliance with Proposition 65, the 1986 "Safe
Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act," including the supplemental enforcement
mechanism that gives private parties the right to file lawsuits.
"We agree that the California standard effectively protects workers by giving them
needed information on toxic materials with which they work, and that is our paramount
concern" said Gregory R. Watchman, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety
and health. "At the same time, OSHA acknowledges that Prop 65 raises consumer and
environmental issues that are beyond the scope of a state occupational safety and health
program, and therefore are not affected by this decision."
OSHA's approval of California's hazard communication standard is based on three
conditions, which apply to both Cal/OSHA and private party enforcement:
Employers in California can fulfill their obligations under Proposition 65 by complying
with the federal or the California hazard communication standard.
Cal/OSHA, the designated occupational safety and health authority in California, must
assure that the California standard continues to provide worker protection "at least as effective"
as the federal standard and remains consistent with the approval conditions. This may mean
challenging legal decisions from supplemental enforcement actions that would reduce worker
protection or be contrary to OSHA's conditions for approval.
Cal/OSHA's hazard communication standard may not be enforced against out-of-state
manufacturers, because a state plan may not regulate conduct occurring outside the state.
Under Proposition 65, private citizens may file civil lawsuits and receive 25 percent of
any penalties imposed against companies for failing to provide "clear and reasonable warning"
about occupational, environmental or consumer exposures to chemicals that may cause cancer
or reproductive harm. The hazard communication standard adopted by Cal/OSHA covers only
After enactment of Proposition 65, the California Court of Appeals in 1991 ordered the
state to incorporate the occupational warning provisions of the statute in the California hazard
communication standard. The change included adding supplemental enforcement procedures
permitting citizen lawsuits to enforce the warning requirements. The revised Cal/OSHA
standard explicitly states that compliance with federal or state hazard communication
requirements constitutes compliance with Proposition 65.
Federal OSHA received California's revised hazard communication standard in 1992
and began discussions with the state on enforcement issues involving Proposition 65. OSHA
formally requested public comment on the standard in a Sept. 13, 1996, Federal Registernotice.
When the comment period closed Nov. 26, 1996, the agency had received more than
200 public comments. Many of the issues raised by commentors concerned compliance
obligations of chemical manufacturers, distributors and importers operating outside California
borders. Other concerns dealt with Proposition 65's requirements involving consumer and
environmental exposures to toxic chemicals, however, these issues are beyond the scope of
OSHA's review of Cal/OSHA's hazard communication standard.
The California Department of Industrial Relations has operated an OSHA approved
state plan since 1973. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires OSHA
to review and approve standards adopted by state OSHA programs. Once established by the
state authority, a state standard remains in effect until federal review is complete. (If, instead
of approving California's hazard communication standard, OSHA had decided to reject the
standard, OSHA would have been required to institute a formal review process under the
Occupational Safety and Health Act. During the review, the state standard would remain in
Under the OSH Act, a state with an OSHA-approved state plan, may enforce its
standards only within its borders. State standards must be "at least as effective" as
comparable federal standards, must not unduly burden interstate commerce and must be
required by compelling local conditions.
OSHA has determined that the Cal/OSHA hazard communication standard, including
the occupational aspects of Proposition 65, is at least as effective as the federal standard in
protecting workers. The standard covers essentially the same chemicals as federal OSHA and
the right of private action serves as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, Cal/OSHA
Further, since the California regulations specifically state that compliance with the state
or the federal hazard communication standard constitutes compliance with Proposition 65,
OSHA believes that the Cal/OSHA standard will not unduly burden interstate commerce.
Finally, since Proposition 65 was a voter initiative that deals with individuals' access to
information about chemical hazards, it is considered to be required by compelling local
Notice of OSHA's approval of the California hazard communication standard is
scheduled for publication in the June 6, 1997, Federal Register.