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.

August 7, 1989

MEMORANDUM FOR:     MICHAEL G. CONNERS
                   REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR

THROUGH:            LEO CAREY, DIRECTOR 
                   DIRECTORATE OF COMPLIANCE PROGRAM

FROM:               PATRICIA K. CLARK, ACTING DIRECTOR
                   DIRECTORATE OF COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS

SUBJECT:            Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) Material Safety
                   Data Sheet Requirements for the Construction Industry.

This is in response to your memorandum of May 26, requesting an interpretation of the HCS material safety data sheet (MSDS) requirements as it applies to the construction industry.

MSDSs are required to be maintained at the jobsite. The basis for this interpretation is the HCS definition of workplace which means "establishment, jobsite, or project, at one geographical location containing one or more work areas." The MSDSs must be on the jobsite and readily accessible to employees when they are in their work areas during the workshift. Alternatives, to actual paper copies of MSDSs, which provide readable copy on-site are permitted to meet this requirement this requirement. For example, computer terminals or FAX machines which allow employees to read and refer to the MSDS are permitted to be maintained at the jobsite, in lieu of paper copies, as long as no barriers to access exist.

There are no minimum time requirements for determining whether MSDSs maintained at the jobsite are readily accessible to employees while they are in their work areas. To make this determination compliance officers must ascertain whether a barrier to access exists. For example, must employees ask a supervisor or other management representative for the MSDS; are the sheets or alternative methods maintained at a location and under conditions where employees can refer to them during each workshift, when they are in their work areas; if a computer or FAX system is used, do employees know how to operate and obtain information from the system? Employees must have access to the MSDSs and be able to get the information when they need it. This may be accomplished in many ways and requires the compliance officer to exercise professional judgment in evaluating the accessibility of the MSDSs on-site.

On multi-employer jobsites, employers who produce, use or store hazardous chemicals, must provide copies of MSDSs to the employers of other employees exposed to the hazardous chemicals, or make them available at a central location at the jobsite. Again, actual paper copies of data sheets, computer terminal access, or other means of providing readable copy on-site are permitted.