News Release USDL 98-135
Tuesday, April 7, 1998
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
NEW OSHA DIRECTIVE MAKES IT EASIER
FOR EMPLOYERS TO COMPLY WITH HAZARD
Employers will find it easier to comply
with the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration's (OSHA's) hazard communication
standard, thanks to a newly released OSHA
Federal law requires employers to meet
the hazard communication standard, which
calls for employers to provide information
about dangerous chemicals to employees
through a comprehensive program that includes
substance labeling, material safety data
sheets (MSDSs) and employee training. The
new directive updates and clarifies a number
of long-standing OSHA requirements of the
For example, the directive clarifies the issue
of electronic access to MSDSs, stating that
employers may provide MSDSs to employees
through computers, microfiche machines, the
Internet, CD-ROM and fax machines.
Employers using electronic means must
ensure that reliable devices are readily
accessible in the workplace at all times;
that workers are trained in the use of these
devices, including specific software; that
there is an adequate back-up system in the
event of the failure of that system such as
power outages or on-line access delays; and
that the system is part of the overall hazard
communication program of the workplace.
Additionally, employees must be able to
access hard copies of the MSDSs, and in
medical emergencies employers must be
able immediately to provide copies of
MSDSs to medical personnel.
Also clarified is OSHA's policy on issuing
citations for consumer products. Citations
involving consumer products will be
issued only when 1) the use of the product
is inconsistent with the manufacturer's
intentions or 2) The frequency of use or
the duration of use greatly exceeds that
expected of an ordinary consumer. For
example, windshield-wiper fluid, which
contains methanol, is meant to be used
in a closed system and sprayed onto the
windshield for cleaning. An employee using
windshield-wiper fluid on a daily basis to
clean windows or other surfaces would
be covered by the standard, as such use of
the fluid differs from the manufacturer's
intended purpose. This example also
illustrates a situation where the frequency
and duration of exposure exceeds that of
a normal consumer.
OSHA compliance officers issuing citations
for either consumer products or manufactured
items must describe the specific hazardous
chemical in the product. OSHA will not
issue citations stating, for example, that
"glue" or "brick" is the hazardous chemical.
The citation must name the specific
chemical, for instance, toluene, silica,
methyl ethyl ketone, sodium hydroxide.
The directive also includes appendices
which can assist employers in compliance.
For example, they provide guidance on the
completeness of material safety data sheets
and provide sample written hazard
communications and training programs.
The issues covered in the directive include
the American National Standards Institute's
standards on labeling and MSDS preparation,
reiteration of a stay-of-enforcement on the
federal requirement that manufacturers update
label information within 90 days of receiving
information on a significant hazard, and
acceptable training procedures.
The hazard communication standard is the
most frequently cited OSHA standard and
protects 32 million workers in general
industry, construction, the maritime
industries, and agriculture.
The OSHA directive provides guidance to
compliance safety and health officers on
enforcing the standard, and is entitled,
"CPL 2-2.38D, Inspection Procedures for
the Hazard Communication Standard." It
replaces a previous directive written
in October 1990.
The new directive consolidates interpretations
issued since the 1990 document, covers
technical amendments and clarifications
to the standard which were adopted in a
separate rulemaking in February 1994, and
addresses issues raised in the September
1996 report to OSHA on hazard communication
submitted by the National Advisory Committee
on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).
The directive can be accessed through the
OSHA home page on the Internet World Wide Web
(http://www.osha.gov) under "Other OSHA Documents"
and then "Directives." Paper copies are
available through the OSHA Publications Office
at phone: (202) 219-4667 or fax: (202) 219-9266.
Additional information on the standard is
available in a booklet, "Chemical Hazard
Communication," and a program highlight sheet
on "Hazard Communication," both of which are
available under "Publications" through the
OSHA home page. The booklet also is
available from the Publications Office.