OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

October 24, 1983

Honorable Steve Symms
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Symms:

This is in response to your September 20, 1983, inquiry on behalf of Dr. Malcolm Renfrew of the University of Idaho concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) current face velocity specifications for laboratory fume hoods.

We understand Dr. Renfrew's concerns, however, the only current standards which specify fume hood face velocities (13 carcinogen standards in 29 CFR 1910.1003 - 1910.1016) do not apply to laboratories. These standards are not applicable to laboratories by virtue of the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturer's Association v. Brennan, 506 F. 2nd 385 (3d Cir. 1974), cert. denied 423 U.S. 830.

You might, however, advise Dr. Renfrew that OSHA is currently reviewing a proposal for a laboratory standard which takes his general concerns into account. Many scientists who, like Dr. Renfrew, have an interest in laboratory safety, have repeatedly pointed out that OSHA's health standards written primarily for the typical industrial workplace are in most respects inappropriate for the laboratory setting, including university laboratories.

The proposal that we are considering is designed to respond to the inherent differences between laboratory and industrial workplaces. It is aimed at maintaining the same level of employee protection for laboratory workers that would be achieved under the General Industry Standards while allowing more flexibility.

I hope that the foregoing satisfies Dr. Renfrew's concerns, and I will be happy to answer any further questions he might have.


Thorne G. Auchter
Assistant Secretary