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.

October 5, 1987

Mr. Edward L. Merrigan
Attorney at Law
6000 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20815

Dear Mr. Merrigan:

This is in response to your letter of September 17, requesting confirmation of previously provided interpretations of the Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200.

The interpretation previously given in our May 23, 1986 letter to you remains unaffected by the August 24, 1987 expansion of the Hazard Communication Standard. There are, however, some new employer responsibilities resulting from the expansion that I would like to apprise you of.

Distributors, who have employees exposed to hazardous chemicals, must now maintain material safety data sheets and train their own employees. Other requirements include the development and implementation of the written hazard communication program. These duties must be met by May 23, 1988.

In addition, for a solid metal (such as a steel beam or a casting) that is not exempted as an article due to its downstream use, the expanded standard permits the required label to be transmitted to the customer at the time of the initial shipment, and need not be included with subsequent shipments to the same employer unless the information on the label changes. The label may be transmitted with the initial shipment itself, or with the material safety data sheet that is to be provided prior to or at the time of the first shipment. The exception to requiring labels on every container is only for the solid metal itself and does not apply to hazardous chemicals used in conjunction with, or known to be present with, the metal and to which employees handling the metal may be exposed (for example, cutting fluids or lubricants).

Please feel free to contact us again if further assistant is needed.


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary