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.

January 23, 1989

Mr. Earl Woodall
205 Mill Road
Office Building 1133
West Mill Road
Evansville, Indiana 47710

Dear Mr. Woodall:

Senator Dan Quayle has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to respond directly to your letter to him dated November 28, 1988, regarding OSHA's rule requiring material safety data sheets.

The rule in question is the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200, which was promulgated by OSHA in 1983. On August 24, 1987, the scope of the HCS was expanded to cover all employers with employees exposed to hazardous chemicals. The standard requires chemical manufacturers and importers to assess the hazards of chemicals which they produce or import, and that this hazard information is transmitted to affected employers and exposed employees. Chemical manufacturers and importers must convey the hazard information they learn from their evaluations to downstream employers by means of labels on containers and material safety data sheets.

The standard requires employers to establish hazard communication programs. These programs must provide information to employees on the hazards of the chemicals they are exposed to or potentially exposed to through labels on containers, material safety data sheets, and training programs. The training programs provide hazard information to employees so they can participate in and support the protective measures utilized at their workplaces. Non-manufacturing employers were to be in compliance with all provisions of the standard by May 23, 1988. OSHA however, extended the enforcement date to August 1, due to confusion resulting from a United States Court of Appeals decision.

It appears that the chemical manufacturer of the portland cement has performed a hazard determination had has prepared the material safety data sheet enclosed in your letter. The chemical manufacturer has indicated that cement can be both an eye and skin irritant. As an employer you are required to make the material safety data sheet available to your employees who are exposed to the cement, as well as to train them regarding the potential hazards.

OSHA has developed a number of resources to assist employers in complying with the HCS. A kit produced by OSHA is available that provides step-by-step guidance on complying with the requirements of the standard and serves equally well the needs of all employers, regardless of the industry in which they operate.

The kit may be purchased through the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 20402-9325, at a cost of $18.00 for domestic users and $22.00 for foreign users. It has GPO Order No. 929-022-00000-9 and is OSHA 3104 Hazard Communication Compliance Kit. It may be ordered by telephone from GPO by calling (202) 783-3238 and using a credit card.

In addition, a booklet entitled "Chemical Hazard Communication" (copy enclosed) provides employers with an easy to read explanation of the responsibilities of employers under the HCS. The booklet also contains a directory of all OSHA Regional and Area Offices. Employers may contact a Regional or Area Office for additional information or assistance.

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


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary