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.

November 17, 1988

Alan J. Kaplan, Director
Safety Engineer
Sea-Land Corporation
Post Office Box 800
Iselin, New Jersey 08830

Dear Mr. Kaplan:

This is in response to your letter of June 15, concerning the training requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) as applied to stevedores. Your letter requests reconsideration of our previous correspondence to you of June 6, 1988.

The standard itself addresses the issue of sealed containers in section 29 CFR 1918.90(b)(4)(iii): "Employers shall ensure that employees are provided with information and training...to the extent necessary to protect them in the event of a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical from a sealed container.." Although, as you state, stevedores may not directly handle individual sealed containers, the trailers, with their sealed cargo, would also be considered sealed containers and therefore covered by the limited provisions of the standard under paragraph (b)(4).

Since the standard addresses the handling of hazardous chemicals in sealed containers, OSHA cannot exempt stevedores in the containerized shipping industry from the training requirements of the HCS. Employers can develop training programs to reflect the type of work performed. For example, if an employer's work practice procedures for leaks and spills is to evacuate the work area, then the employer's training program could just address the proper action to take, such as evacuation procedures, cleanup responsibility, etc.

Specific training is not required concerning the hazards of each chemical stevedores may encounter in a sealed container, provided that employees are aware of general precautions to take in the event of a spill or leak of the chemical. If an employer has employees who open sealed containers, then those employees would be covered by the more comprehensive provisions of the standard.

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


Thomas J. Shepich, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs