• Standard Number:

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.

December 5, 1988

Mr. Robin W. Grover
Keck, Mahin & Cate
Attorneys at Law
1730 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-4706

Dear Mr. Grover:

This is in response to your letter of September 22, regarding the duties of distributors of products covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 29 CFR 1910.1200.

In your letter you specifically asked the Agency to respond to two "proposed aspects of compliance by bearing distributors with the Hazard Communication Standard." Our responses are numbered in the sequence in which the questions were posed.

Proposal 1:

That chemical manufacturers and importers are required to either provide distributors with one material safety data sheet and label per each product shipped or that they must reimburse distributors for the costs of necessary duplication of material safety data sheets and labels.


According to 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(6) the responsibilities of chemical manufacturers or importers are to ensure that distributors are provided with an appropriate material safety data sheet with their initial shipment, and with the first shipment after a data sheet is updated. The standard does not compel manufacturers to supply material safety data sheets with each product shipped or to reimburse distributors of the products for duplication costs. The standard does require chemical manufacturers to ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals is labeled.

Proposal 2:

Alternatively, a finding that bearing distributors meet their obligations under HCS by sending a one-time letter (with appropriate updates) to each of their customers containing the information required by the HCS (rather than one material safety data sheet per product shipment).


Distributors are required to provide material safety data sheets in the same manner that chemical manufacturers and importers are. The material safety data sheet must be provided to commercial customers with the initial shipment and with the first shipment after a data sheet has been updated. Retail distributors must provide, upon request, material safety data sheets to commercial customers and post a sign or otherwise inform them that a material safety data sheet is available. This provision of the HCS was included to prevent the necessity of providing a sheet to each customer of a retail establishment in order to ensure that employers obtained a material safety data sheet. Distributors are not required to provide material safety data sheets to retail distributors that do not sell the product to commercial customers or open the sealed containers. The Monday, August 8, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register, proposes a modification of paragraph (g)(7) of the standard which will clarify the duties of distributors in providing material safety data sheets to be the same as those for manufacturers and importers.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please feel free to contact me again if further assistance is needed.


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary