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.


January 13, 1986

Mr. F. Michael Friedman
Arney, Pagano & Friedman
Attorneys At Law
321-323 West Front Street
Post Office Box 1000
Media, Pennsylvania 19063

Dear Mr. Friedman:

Reference is made to your letter dated November 20, 1985, requesting if Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on a computer data base would be in compliance with provisions of 29 CFR 1910.

There are two standards in OSHA's General Industry Standards, 29 CFR 1910, that specifically address employee access to MSDSs. They are: 1910.1020, "Access to employee exposure and medical records," and 1910.1200 "Hazard Communication."

Under 1910.1020, the MSDS is considered a record and as per 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(B), "need not be retained for any specified period as long as some record of the identity (chemical name if known) of the substance or agent, where it was used, and when it was used is retained for at least thirty (30) years...." Due to the length of time involved, storage of MSDS's as records under 1910.1020 on a computer data base could require special planning on the part of the employer. Also, 1910.1020(e) states that any employer must provide access to a record in a reasonable time, place, and manner, but in no event later than 15 days after the request for access is made. Based on your letter, this requirement should pose no compliance problem for the proposed method of storing MSDSs.

However, under 1910.1200(g)(8), the employer must ensure that the MSDSs are readily accessible during each work shift to employees when they are in their work area(s). 1910.1200(g)(9) reiterates the above and allows MSDSs to be kept in any form.

In conclusion, if the employee's work area includes the area where the MSDSs can be obtained, then maintaining MSDS on a computer would be in compliance. If the MSDSs can only be accessed out of the employee's work area(s), then the employer would not be in compliance with 1910.1200(g)(8) or 1910.1200(g)(9).

If you have any further questions, please contact the [Office of Health Enforcement on (202)693-2190].


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Field Operations

November 20, 1985

Mr. John Miles
Director of Field Operations
U.S. Department of Labor - O.S.H.A.
200 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Room No. N 3603
Washington, D.C. 20210

Re: Employer Compliance with Material Safety Data Sheet Requirements of 29 C.F.R. Part 1910 by means of Computer Data Base.

Dear Mr. Miles:

We are requesting a formal opinion of whether an employer who maintains the required material safety sheets (M.S.D.S.) on a personal computer disc data base will be in compliance with the provisions of 29 C.F.R. Part 1910. The information would be called up by a program and the employer would make available to employees ready access to the computer and necessary assistance in its use during all work shifts. A hard copy print-out could also be provided by printer at any time. If this is sufficient information for you to advise us of whether this would be satisfactory compliance, we would appreciate your opinion. If you need further information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Respectfully yours, ARNEY, PAGANO AND FRIEDMAN

F. Michael Friedman
Arney, Pagano & Friedman

[Corrected 3/26/2009]