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.

August 13, 1986

Mr. James Renson
Executive Director
National Association of
Printing Ink Manufacturers, Inc.
47 Halstead Avenue
Harrison, New York 10528

Dear Mr. Renson:

This is in response to your letter dated June 25 on behalf of the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers, Inc., regarding the labeling of products containing hazardous chemicals under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200.

The provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard are primarily performance based. Accordingly, the effectiveness of the employer's Hazard Communication Program must be evaluated to determine whether compliance has been achieved. All programs must incorporate the standard's written requirements, [29 CFR 1910.1200(e)], provisions for labeling and material safety data sheets [29 CFR 1910.1200(f) and (g) respectively], and the training responsibilities of the standard [29 CFR 1910.1200(h).

The Hazard Communication Standard establishes labeling requirements for shipped containers as well as for inplant containers. Both must contain 1) the identity of hazardous chemical(s) and 2) appropriate hazard warnings. In addition, labels on shipped containers must include the name and address of the manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party.

Currently the Hazard Communication Standard only requires the establishment of hazard communication programs in certain industries. These are manufacturing industries classified in Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes 20-39. In establishing the standard's scope the Agency intended to provide limited coverage to other users of hazardous chemicals through the standard's labeling provisions. The main purpose for the label identity is to provide a link to the material safety data sheet. Since non-covered employees, (that is, employees in industries other than manufacturing) will generally not be provided with material safety data sheets, the requirement for appropriate hazard warnings on the label becomes the most useful information element for this group of workers.

The standard does not define the term, "appropriate hazard warning"; however it does define "hazard warning" to mean any words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof appearing on a label or other appropriate form of warning which conveys the hazards of the chemicals in the container. The Agency believes that it is critical for employees to know and understand the potential hazardous effects associated with the chemicals encountered in the workplace so that they will appreciate the hazards and cooperate in limiting the potential for harm.

On July 18, OSHA issued guidelines to its enforcement personnel clarifying OSHA enforcement policy relative to labeling (OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.38A CH-1, copy enclosed). This document establishes a two-tiered labeling approach that meets the standard's intent that employees be made aware of the hazardous effects of the chemicals they work with, without regard to the current scope of the standard, while ensuring flexibility consistent with the standard's performance nature.

To summarize the guidelines referenced above, labels on shipped containers containing hazardous chemicals must include the hazardous effects of exposure. This again will ensure that non-covered employees, who generally will not receive training or be provided with a material safety data sheet, are provided with minimal information that will make them aware of the hazardous effects of the chemicals with which they work. Covered industries with required Hazard Communication Programs are permitted to utilize any inplant labeling system that is effective, in conjunction with the other requirements of the standard, in conveying the hazards to which the employees are exposed.

This approach will permit the continued use of the National Paint and coating Association's Hazardous Materials Identification System, the American National Standard Institute's (ANSI) labeling standard and others.

Please feel free to contact us again, if we can be of further assistance.


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary