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.

December 26, 1989

Mr. Robert Walker
Industrial Hygienist
National Loss Control Service Corporation
Long Grove, Illinois 60049-0075

Dear Mr. Walker:

This is in response to your September letter to Ms. Melody Sands of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Office of Health Compliance Assistance, requesting an interpretation on the applicability of OSHA's Benzene Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1028, to certain engine testing operations. I apologize for the delay of this response.

Your letter describes situations where occupational exposure to benzene may occur during indoor engine testing operations on carburetors using gasoline as a fuel, and also downline operations where gasoline is "blown out" of the carburetors prior to their being shipped. You questioned whether these operations would be exempt from coverage under the benzene standard, as per section (a)(2)(i). That section exempts from coverage under the standard the use of gasoline as a fuel.

Exemptions to the benzene standard as written into the "Scope and Application" section were based on information available to OSHA during the rulemaking period regarding the presence of benzene in various workplaces and whether exposures would be expected to be or would likely be consistently under the action level. As discussed in the standard's preamble, OSHA clearly exempted the retail gasoline sector. No evidence in the rulemaking record exists, however, for expected occupational exposures to benzene from gasoline in the types of operations you described. The operations detailed in your letter are situations where gasoline is utilized as a "fuel", subsequent to its final discharge from bulk storage facilities. Therefore, these operations would, in a plain reading of the standard, be exempt from coverage under 1910.1028. However, while the employer may therefore not be required to meet all the requirements of 1910.1028, he would still be required to provide for protection under the previous and still enforceable permissible exposure limit for benzene of 10 ppm. In addition, all other applicable OSHA workplace standards (respirators/protection, applicable personal protective equipment, ventilation and other controls, etc.) would of course also apply.

In operations where gasoline is not utilized as a fuel but is utilized as a "solvent" (as in certain cleaning operations) or during any other non-fuel uses of gasoline, occupational exposure to benzene would not be exempt from coverage (if benzene is present in the gasoline in concentrations greater than 0.1 percent (0.1%) or more, as per section (a)(2)(v) ).

As discussed above, no evidence exists in OSHA's rulemaking records regarding the kind of workplace exposure to gasoline (and, therefore possibly benzene) that you described in your letter. If you do determine that benzene exposures to workers do exist during these operations, the agency would appreciate your forwarding this information to us so we could consider whether it would be appropriate to amend the benzene standard to include these operations and provide affected workers with appropriate safeguards.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. Please feel free to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.


Thomas J. Shepich, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs