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.

November 8, 1985

                 Regional Administrator

FROM:            JOHN B. MILES, JR., Director
                 Directorate of Field Operations

SUBJECT:         Retention of Exposure Records Under 29 CFR 1910.1020

This is in response to your request for clarification of the 29 CFR 1910.1020 Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records Standard. In your correspondence, confirmation was requested of your interpretation of 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(B) as it applies to employers who opt to retain material safety data sheets as exposure records. Specifically that the employers must add information to the material safety data sheet on the time frame in which the chemical was used and the location of its use.

Based upon research of the 1910.1020 standard and discussions with Health Standards I can not confirm your interpretation of paragraph 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(B). As you are aware, the language of this paragraph does not specifically require that the "where" and "when" information be added to the material safety data sheet. This was the result of objections by employers to such a provision during the rulemaking process.

As you noted, the agency does allow an alternative to maintaining the material safety data sheet itself for 30 years. During the rulemaking process, a decision was made to make the alternative method contain more information (ie. location of use and time period used) than that which would be required if only the material safety data sheet was retained.

If there are further questions on this matter, please contact this office.





October 22, 1985





                 Directorate of Field Operations

                 Regional Administrator

SUBJECT:         Retention of Exposure Records Under 29 CFR 1910.1020

It has been brought to our attention by an industry representative that the MSDS retention requirements covered by 29 CFR 1910.1020 are unclear and possibly contradictory, specifically regarding the information necessary to be retained on these records. This issue has also been brought to Assistant Secretary Pendergrass' attention during his recent visit to Region V. The following information summarizes the issue and suggests a possible course of action.

With the onset of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard, the generation and retention of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS's) has undoubtedly become the most common form of employee exposure record as defined by 29 CFR 1910.1020. The purpose of employers retaining such exposure records is described in detail in the preamble to the 1910.1020 standard. There appears, however, to be some confusion between the intent of retaining exposure records as described in the preamble and the actual language of the regulation.

29 CFR 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(B) allows an employer to exercise an option with regard to retaining MSDS's for 30 years. Either the specific MSDS's are to be retained or some record of the identity of the substance, where it was used, and when it was used is to be maintained. This regulation does not explicitly state that if the employer opts to maintain the actual MSDS's, the "when" and "where" must be additionally identified on the MSDS (nor does 1910.1200).

It is readily apparent that simply retaining MSDS's used by an employer for 30 years with no reference to the location of use or the time frame in which the chemical was used will serve little, if any, purpose in the detection, treatment, or prevention of occupational disease, which is the primary purpose on the 1910.1020 standard (see FR Vol. 45, No. 102, pg. 35219, III.A).

While the preamble clearly states employee exposure records (of which MSDS's are included) reveal the identity of and the extent of exposure to toxic substances (FR Vol. 45, No. 102, pg. 35219), a MSDS will not provide the "extent" information unless it includes when the toxic substance was used and where it was used. The preamble also states, "prior exposure records can suggest the cause of current disease experience" (FR Vol. 45, No. 102, pg. 35270). It is indeed unlikely that a pile of MSDS's collected over 30 years with no reference to when or where the chemical was used would serve any useful epidemiologic purpose. Lastly, the preamble devotes considerable discussion to the situation where exposure records contain "where" and "when" information which the company claims as trade secret (FR Vol. 45, No. 102, pg. 35275). The preamble and actual standard (1900.20(f)(1)) concludes that the "where" and "when" information is of such importance that alternate information sufficient to permit the employee to identify where and when exposure occurred must be provided.

We believe that the preceding establishes the intent of 1910.1020 to include as an employee exposure record the time duration of such exposure and the location of the exposure. The actual standard, however, is not clear in this intent. It is our recommendation that 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(B) be interpreted as requiring employers who opt to retain the original MSDS's include both the time frame in which the chemicals were used and the location of its use. If you concur with this position, it would be advisable to issue such an interpretation to the field.