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.

May 1, 1986

Mr. S. M. Duskin
Executive Vice President
Southern Agricultural
Chemicals Association
P.O. Box 686
Dawson, Georgia 31742

Dear Mr. Duskin:

This is in response to your letters of October 3, 1985, and April 10 regarding the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Please excuse our delay in responding and any inconvenience it may have caused.

The following are our responses to your specific questions, which we have repeated for ease of reference:

Scenario: A manufacturing plant uses and stores several hazardous substances. Oil tanks and reactor vessels are provided with signs showing the chemical name, i.e., sulfuric acid, and a code name. Every employee is trained to recognize what the code name means and he/she can find out details on hazardous aspects of the substance by checking the codebook in the plant office. The codebook contains, among other guidelines, the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the coded material.

Question 1: Does this system satisfy labeling requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard?

Answer: The methods described in your question appear to fit into the category of labeling alternatives found in paragraph [29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(6)]. As such they will meet the intent of the standard as long as the use of this method is restricted to stationary process containers.

Scenario: A manufacturing plant identifies a sulfuric acid tank with a label: DANGER: - SULFURIC ACID. Next to it is the Department of Transportation (DOT) label for corrosive substances showing the picture of a liquid spill on a hand.

Question 2: Does this composite label meet the OSHA requirements?

Answer: For in-plant labels the standard identifies two requirements: chemical identity and appropriate hazard warnings ([29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(5)(i) and 1910.1200(f)(5)(ii)]). The "SULFURIC ACID" wording would satisfy the identity requirements as long as the same term was utilized for cross-referencing purposes on the material safety data sheets and required list of hazardous chemicals. The requirement for "appropriate hazard warning" will only be met in all significant health and physical effects appear on the label. The labeling alternative referenced in our response to your first question should be consulted for further guidance.

Scenario: A company owns and operates a pesticide warehouse. All of the pesticide products are received in containers and sold as such to dealers and/or farmers. There is a remote chance of a spill from time to time requiring cleanup of materials.

Question 3: Are material safety data sheets required to be on site for all of the products? What type of training, if any, is required under the OSHA standards?

Answer: From your question it would appear that the facility concerned is not currently one of the industries covered by the scope of the standard (Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes 20-39). It is recommended that material safety data sheets be made available because of the predictable exposure you have referenced.

Scenario: A company has a fertilizer and pesticide location. Bulk pesticide facilities, as well as smaller containers are at the location. Fifty percent of the products are custom applied by company personnel as a fertilizer/pesticide material to the farmer's field. Twenty-five percent of the products are sold directly to the farmer for his own application. Twenty-five percent of the products are sold to dealers who either sell directly to the farmer or custom-apply the products for the farmer.

Question 4: Are material safety data sheets required to be on site for all the products? What type of training, if any, is required for the company personnel under OSHA standards?

Answer: If the location has been classified in SIC codes 20 through 39 then it would be within the scope of the HCS. The employer would be required to maintain copies of the material safety data sheets for each hazardous chemical in the workplace as well as providing training and meeting all of the requirements of the HCS that apply to a chemical manufacturer. Establishments blending and formulating fertilizers and pesticides are normally classified in SIC Codes 2875 or 2879. Employers involved in the application of pesticides fall under standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Scenario: When a manufacturer of a product ships to a business he is required to furnish a material safety data sheet to the distributors. A given distributor has many individual outlets.

Question 5: What is the manufacturer's responsibility in the supplying of material safety data sheets to these outlets?

Answer: If the manufacturer is selling to the distributor and not the outlets, then the manufacturer is only required to provide material safety data sheets to the distributor. It is the distributor's responsibility to furnish material safety data sheets to other distributors and employers in SIC codes 20-39.

Scenario: A company owns and operates a pesticide warehouse and a number of retail outlets. Most of the pesticides are purchased and resold in containers, some are purchased in bulk and resold in minibulk tanks, and some are impregnated on dry fertilizer material for application on the farm or mixed with nitrogen solution for direct application.

Question 6: To whom should material safety data sheets be available or disseminated and what type of training is required?

Answer: The term pesticide warehouse at first glance appears to present an establishment that does not fall within the scope of SIC codes covered by the HCS. Your question however, indicates that some blending and repackaging is customary. These operations are included in those that are used to define a chemical manufacturer with respect to the HCS applicability; reference the definitions for "chemical manufacturer" and "produce" under paragraph (c) of 29 CFR 1910.1200. As a chemical manufacturer the establishment would have to meet the standard in-house requirements for a written program, labeling, material safety data sheets and training.

Scenario: A company operates a number of fertilizer and pesticide retail locations which sell directly to farmers. None of these retail locations are categorized in SIC codes 20-39.

Question 7: Are material safety data sheets, training, and a written program required for any of these locations?

Answer: No, These locations would not be included in the scope of the standard.

Scenario: A company operates "crossroads" dry or liquid fertilizer blending facilities. Pesticides sometimes are mixed or blended into the fertilizers at the site for custom or farmer applications. The facility has an EPA "establishment number".

Note: This question is a variant of Question 6.

Question 8: Is such a facility considered to be a "manufacturing facility?" If yes, which of the following would it be required to comply with: training plan, material safety data sheet on file, material safety data sheet delivery to the purchaser? Would the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) exemption apply? If not, why not?

Answer: Please refer back to our answer to question number 6. As a manufacturer of pesticides you are still required to comply with the HCS requirements, except those specific labeling exemptions referenced under 29 CFR 1910.1200(b).

Question 9: Would DOT placarding, if used, cover applications vehicles as to Hazard Communications?

Answer: OSHA has no jurisdiction over application.

Scenario: A company operates a pesticide formulation facility which provides custom formulation services for pesticide products sold under others' labels. We believe the facility would meet the criteria to be classified as a manufacturing facility.

Question 10: Would it be required to meet the full range of hazard communication standards? To whom would it provide material safety data sheets? From whom should it obtain them?

Answer: If the establishment is classified in SIC codes 20 through 39 then all applicable provisions of the HCS would apply. The chemical manufacturing, importer or distributor should supply the material safety data sheet for the hazardous chemicals purchased from these sources. The formulating facility would provide material safety data sheets to distributors and other chemical manufacturers.

Scenario: A Pesticide distributor infrequently sells an "end-use product" to a formulator who will use it in the formulation of another product.

Question 11: Does this sale of an "end use" vs. a "manufacturing use" product to a formulator subject the distributor to OSHA Hazard Communication rules? To all? If not, to which requirements?

Answer: The SIC code of the formulator is the determining factor. The distributor would be required to provide material safety data sheets to formulators classified in SIC codes 20 through 39.

The answers above that relate to the standard's application by SIC code must be modified in States where a more expansive standard has been enacted.

We hope that we have adequately addressed your inquiry and you are able to apply our responses to the summary paragraph of your questions. Again, we apologize for the delay in this response and any inconvenience you may have experienced. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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

[Corrected 05/28/2004]