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 29, 1990

The Honorable Guy Vander Jagt
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Vander Jagt:

This is in response to your letter of December 13 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding an inquiry on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Joe Huf of Hudsonville, Michigan. In a telephone request to your office, Mr. Huf expressed concern about an apparent product endorsement by OSHA that appears on a all-purpose cleaning product manufactured by a competitor's company.

According to the product literature forwarded with your letter, the product "3D Supreme Degreaser/Cleaner Concentrate" claims to "meet or exceed OSHA requirements for health and safety. (Material safety data sheets are available)." The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not set "requirements" for cleaning chemicals. OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200 does, however, require that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported into the United States be evaluated and that information concerning any associated health or physical hazards be transmitted to employees via comprehensive hazard communication programs. The programs are to include container labeling and other forms of warning, material safety data sheets (MSDS) and employee training.

The product literature you sent us states that "material safety data sheets are available," which would indicate that the chemical manufacturer has performed a hazard determination on the product and has found it to contain hazardous chemicals, since he has produced and has available a MSDS (no MSDS is required if the product does not contain hazardous chemicals). The chemical manufacturer must transmit the MSDS (and appropriate warning labels) to downstream employers with the initial product shipment or whenever there is new hazard information reported on the MSDS. Retail distributors of hazardous chemicals do not have to provide MSDS to commercial customers unless requested to do so (i.e., when retail products are packaged for sale to consumers, no MSDS need be provided unless the product will not be used in the same manner as a normal consumer would use it). OSHA does not prohibit the manufacturer of the product in question from stating that his product "meets OSHA requirements" if he is providing material safety data sheets and hazard information as required under the HCS.

Other OSHA health standards may apply to workplace situations where the product Mr. Huf is concerned about is used. For example, depending on the ingredients contained in the cleaner and it's manner of use, employee protection may be required, including ventilation controls, personal protective equipment, clothing or gloves, or other applicable precautions. This assessment should be made by the employer, again, based on the unique conditions of use of the product at that establishment.

I hope the discussion will be useful to you in responding to your constituent. I am also enclosing a copy of two OSHA booklets on OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard that may be useful as a further reference source on the requirements of the HCS. Please feel free to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.


Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary