- Standard Number:
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 http://www.osha.gov.
January 17, 1986
The Honorable John W. Warner
United States Senator
805 Federal Building
200 Granby Mall
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Dear Senator Warner:
This is in response to your correspondence of December 11, 1985, on behalf of Mr. Robert C. Hutson, President of Ocean Research, Inc., Diggs, Virginia. It is our understanding that Mr. Hutson's company has a contract to manufacture rope helo slings for the U.S. Department of Navy, that coatings are applied to the ropes, and that according to Navy specifications, the coating formula must include tetrahydrofuran. Please accept my apology for the delay in response.
Mr. Hutson stated that he and his employees are experiencing harmful health effects from preparing and applying the coating formula. For this reason, Mr. Hutson is trying to get the Navy to change its specification to permit the use of a substitute solvent for tetrahydrofuran.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations limiting employee exposure to tetrahydrofuran, but while the substitution of a less toxic chemical for tetrahydrofuran is one possible solution to a problem of employee over-exposure, this agency has no authority to intercede in a contract dispute and require that this be done. We also wish to point out that while xylene, methyl isobutyl ketone, Cellosolve acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, and Moca may not have as highly irritating properties as tetrahydrofuran, they nonetheless are also toxic and must be handled under properly controlled conditions.
OSHA standards require employers to maintain employee exposures to toxic air contaminants at or below permissible exposure limits with engineering or administrative controls, whenever feasible. If feasible engineering or administrative controls are not fully effective, then the remainder of the required protection must be obtained by providing employees with and requiring that they use personal respiratory protection devices.
The OSHA permissible exposure limit or tetrahydrofuran is 200 parts per million as an 8-hour, time-weighted average concentration. The limit appears in Table Z-1 of standard 29 CFR 1910.1000. We have enclosed a copy of this standard and also a copy of OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.134 covering respiratory protection.
The Commonwealth of Virginia administers its own occupational safety and health program under a provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, subject to close monitoring by Federal OSHA. If Mr. Hutson should need any further information from the administering State agency, or wish to contact it for any reason, the address and telephone number are:
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
P. O. Box 12064
Richmond, Virginia 2341-0064
Telephone: (804) 786-2376
Since our Philadelphia Regional Office has direct supervision over Federal OSHA activities in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are forwarding your correspondence to that office for appropriate attention. The address and telephone number of the Philadelphia Regional Office are:
US Department of Labor - OSHA
Gateway Building, Suite 2100
3535 Market Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
If we may be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us again.
John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Field Operations
November 14, 1985
Senator John W. Warner
405 Russell SOB
Washington, D.C. 20510
REFERENCE: Tetrahydrofurane Solvent (T.H.F.)
SUBJ: Forced Government Use of Same against our will.
Dear Senator Warner:
This letter is a plea for your help in the form of advice or experience with the use of Tetrahydrofurane solvent chemical in the factory work place.
Ocean Products holds patents to two synthetic rope helo slings, called "Reach Pendants", for external cargo loads. We make these for U. S., Canadian and other nations.
Originally (1964-72) we used solvent based P.V.C. coatings, most of which used M.I.B.K. and Xylene as solvents. We cured the rope with explosion proof vent blowers and exhaust fans.
To upgrade the coating service and protection of the surface fibers, we changed to polyurethane elastomers (ether grade). Most were of the moca type 95% solids -- 2 part system 85-92 Shore A.
We received approval from OSHA and NIOSH to use and handle these products. Surveys were run on our shops by these agencies and we were approved in 1980. In addition we use moisture cure, solvent base and water base urethanes for rope coatings.
A Navy engineering group in Washington, D. C. and New Jersey (who have cognizance over our drawings) have changed all rope coatings to require:
1) Estane - Part #5417-Fl polyurethane thermoplastic granuals mfg. by Goodrich Chemical Company, Cleveland, Ohio.
2) With Tetrahydrofurane mfg. by Quaker Oats Company, Chemical Division, Chicago, IL, as a solvent. (The only solvent allowable).
The % ratio is 15% pellets, 85% T.H.F. by weight to be mixed in suspension and applied by dipping and stripping by hand to a desired thickness or pick up.
Using the above, two or three men must work in a closed spaced, 65 - 75 degrees farenheit, summer or winter, for periods of 2 - 4 hours at a run. The current contract in question will require approx. 200 gal. of solution to be applied and tended approx. 168 manhours for the job. Our batches or pots would be 768 oz. (6 gal.), open exposed material (652 oz. T.H.F.) at 85% solvent.
We received this contract in early 1984, the first contract we had ever received requiring the use of T.H.F. as a solvent.
Our first prototype evaluations using the T.H.F. resulted in two becoming sick, the coating technician and myself. We reported the problem to the proper contract people who arranged a meeting. It was decided to then try to do this job outside (under a roof but open on the sides). We added fans, however found that the presence of vapor, using less than 128 oz. of mixed material was too heavy plus we had severe moisture pick up problems. As a result of using this small amount, one man was unable to breath properly and I became sick. In addition I developed a sore throat and a skin rash in both ear canals, which I still have.
Nothing we can say will or has caused the contracting officer to change the specs or believe us. They say another company is certifying the specs and so should we since we quoted on the contract. We have learned that M.E.K. may work as a solvent, but the government inspector is required to see that we use T.H.F. only.
We are now threatened with "default" and costly fines for refusing to use this material. Our employees have also refused to work with the material.
We are used to such solvents as Xylene, M.I.B.K., Cellesolve Acetate and M.E.K., but we cannot tolerate the T.H.F.
The government has now asked for our last "show cause" as to why we cannot proceed with the contract, with documentations. The contracting officer needs outside expert opinion to evaluate the default.
We ask that you please give us your experience or views on the problem and allow us to submit a copy of your letter with our final rebuttal. To do so may help us and others who may be forced to use this product. Your credentials on the letter will help.
When we quoted we did not realize the effects of the fumes, nor had we ever used T.H.F. before.
We are in hopes that expert opinion will change this spec to a safe one for the good of all. We are also asking our congressman for help.
Robert C. Hutson
CONTRACT DATA - Contract #N00104-83-C-6023-1 Contracting Officer - J. M. Shye, Ext. 6308 Code 0253.1 Agency - Navy Ships Parts Control Center (Department of the Navy) Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 Contract Amount - $62,607.68 Engineering Activity - Naval Weapons Handling Lab Colts Neck, NJ 07722 (Navy Earle) Code WH8026
NOTE: In 22 years of serving the military, we have never defaulted. We have only been late on two occasions, each of which we gave the government their requested consideration for being late. Approximately 75% of our volume is with defense or defense related contracts. A file of correspondence between us and the contracting officer/engineering group is available immediately upon request.