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.

April 24, 1989

The Honorable Bill Richardson U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Richardson:

This is in response to your letter of February 22, on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Robert A. Chalmers of Roadrunner Coin-op Laundry & Cleaners, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 29 CFR 1910.1200.

Your constituents questions concerning the HCS will be answered in the sequence in which they were posed.

Question 1:

1. Is it a government requirement that these MSDS's on highly questionable hazardous materials be produced and distributed at considerable cost and inconvenience to the manufacturer, distributor and consumer?


The standard requires chemical manufacturers and importers to review available scientific evidence concerning the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import and to report the information they find to their employees and to employers who distribute or use their products. It is the responsibility of the chemical manufacturer or importer to develop the material safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical. Any chemical that poses either a physical hazard (such as flammability) or a health hazard (such as causing damage to the skin or eyes) is covered by the rule.

Question 2:

2. If the answer is yes to 1, above, just what is my responsibility at the point of sale related to passing this "handling and hazard information" on to the consumer? - what about grocery store sales?


The HCS provides workers exposed to hazardous chemicals with the right to know the identities and hazards of those chemicals, as well as appropriate means to protect themselves from adverse health effects. This is to be accomplished by having a hazard communication program in each covered facility, with labels on containers of such hazardous materials, more detailed information in the form of material safety data sheets, and employee training programs.

Distributors are required to pass along material safety data sheets to downstream employers. The material safety data sheet must be provided to commercial customers prior to or with the initial shipment of the hazardous chemical and with the first shipment after the 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 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 which have informed them that they do not sell the product to commercial customers or open the sealed containers to use in their own workplaces. This provision may affect many of the products sold by your constituent.

The HCS does not apply to consumers. Therefore, your constituent is not required to pass on material safety data sheets to consumers.

I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent. If I may be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.


Alan C. McMillan Acting Assistant Secretary