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.

May 23, 1988

Ms. Amy R. Graham
Counsel Petroleum Marketers
Association of America
1120 Vermont Ave., N.W., Suite 1130
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Ms. Graham:

This is in response to your letter of April 20 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requesting written clarifications to two specific questions on OSHA's final rule on occupational exposure to benzene, 29 CFR 1910.1028. Please accept my sincere apologies for our delay in responding to your letter. As we explained to you by telephone, we did not receive your letter of January 15 wherein you first raised these questions.

For the sake of clarity, I will enumerate and respond to your questions in the order you raised them:

Question 1:

Are bulk gasoline storage facilities storing fuel prior to distribution to fuel end-users, commercial and farm accounts exempted from compliance with the standard?


No. The standard covers all bulk storage facilities, including all bulk plants and all bulk terminals unless they have met the vapor recovery exemption. As discussed in the standard's preamble, OSHA clearly exempts the retail gasoline sector. Bulk storage facilities storing fuel prior to distribution to end-user/commercial and farm accounts are not exempted from compliance with the Benzene Standard. The standard states that "the storage, transportation, distribution, dispensing, sale or use of gasoline, motor fuels, or other fuels containing benzene subsequent to its final discharge from bulk wholesale storage facilities" are exempted from the Benzene Standard. Since bulk plants and bulk terminals that purchase from other bulk storage facilities are storing fuels prior to its final discharge from bulk storage facilities, they are not exempt from the Benzene Standard.

Exemptions from the standard are based on whether exposures are likely to be consistently under the action level. Exemptions are based on the use of vapor recovery systems, not on the source of the bulk wholesale storage facilities' fuel.

Question 2:

What type of respirator(s) must a gasoline bulk storage facility covered by the standard use in the event of an emergency?


Employers are responsible for protecting employees against recognized hazards. Employers are responsible for protecting employees against the type(s) of hazards that might be reasonably expected to be encountered at the workplace, not just from the hazard associated with excessive exposure to benzene. If, in the worksites in question, employees are responsible for responding to emergency situations, or working in a situation where the employer has specific knowledge through on-site exposure monitoring results that exposures are or may reach "high" or "unknown" levels, then the employer has the responsibility to supply his or her employees with the proper respiratory protection, including self-contained breathing apparatus, as appropriate. If, in an emergency situation at a gasoline bulk storage facility covered by the standard, the normal response of the employees is to leave the area and call in firefighters or other emergency response personnel, then there is no need to have SCBAs on hand for the employees that normally work at that location, since it is not anticipated that they will be subjected to the emergency exposures. However, if it is required of an employee to work in recognized hazardous situations such as confined space entry or situations where high concentrations of benzene or other asphyxiants are likely to be encountered (including excessive concentrations of gasoline vapors in air), then the employee must of course be provided with proper respiratory protection.

The Benzene Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1028 is specific regarding occupational exposures. The employer is still responsible for providing protection against other emergencies that may arise from other situations, including, as mentioned as an example above, excessive concentrations of gasoline vapor in air. OSHA cannot specify the exact requirements for all emergency situations. Responsibility for providing adequate protection to employees rests solely with the employer, based on his or her specific worksite situations.

I hope this will sufficiently address the concerns you raised, and I again apologize for the delay in this response to you. If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary