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 16, 1988

Mr. Gregory M. Leitner
Law Offices
Leitner, Warner, Moffitt, Williams,
Dooley, Carpenter & Napolitan
Third Floor Pioneer Building
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402

Dear Mr. Leitner:

This is in response to your letter of March 22, addressed to Mr. Steven Simon of my staff, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200.

The HCS applies, as stated in 1910.1200(b)(2), " ... to any chemical which is known to be present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency." Under the definition of "employee" workers such as office workers or bank tellers who encounter hazardous chemicals only in non-routine, isolated instances are not covered. The amount of time an employee is exposed is not a parameter for determining whether a worker is covered by the standard. Rather, if an employee can be exposed to a hazardous chemical while performing his/her job function, then that employee is covered by the standard. For example, if a cashier is required to perform a clean up procedure at the end of the work shift, that employee would be covered by the standard even if the time required for the clean up was short.

As you state in your letter your client has no duty to evaluate chemicals. The HCS requires employers to have a written program for their workplaces which at least describes how the requirements for labels and other forms of warning, material safety data sheets, and employee information and training will be met. The written program must also include a list of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace and, if applicable, the methods the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards of non-routine tasks, and the hazards associated with chemicals contained in unlabeled pipes in their work areas.

The HCS does not specify how training is to be accomplished. The employer is free to select any method of training including an oral presentation. In addition, the standard does not state how long the training must be. If your client determines that a 15 minute oral presentation is sufficient to meet the training requirements of the HCS, OSHA would not object unless we determine that the training was not adequate. From an enforcement standpoint, therefore, OSHA would determine compliance with the training provisions based on whether an employee has been adequately trained and not on the type or length of the training program.

If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.


Thomas J. Shepich, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs