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.

August 22, 1990

The Honorable Bob Graham
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Graham:

Thank you for your letter of July 23, addressed to Mr. Alan McMillan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health. Your letter transmitted correspondence from your constituent, Mr. Murray J. Brooks of Brooks Beauty Supply of Florida, Inc., in Orlando, Florida. Mr. Brooks wrote to you concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200.

Mr. Brooks included with his letter a transcript of the statement made by Mr. Fred P. Polk, Executive Director of the Beauty and Barber Supply Institute, Inc., at the OSHA public hearings held in December, 1988, on proposed revisions to the HCS. OSHA has not yet issued a final standard in response to the 1988 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The statement made by Mr. Polk on behalf of the Beauty and Barber Supply Institute is part of OSHA's docket (Exhibit #28, OSHA Docket # H-022D) and, as such, constitutes part of the public record on the Hazard Communication rule. All comments and statements made during the HCS rulemaking proceedings have been and continue to be fully considered by Agency staff in the development of the final rule and are available to the public for inspection and reference.

In his letter to you, Mr. Brooks expressed concern with the material safety data sheet (MSDS) "delivery system" of the HCS. As a distributor of materials that may pose a chemical hazard to downstream employees, the Brooks Beauty Supply company receives MSDS and label information from their chemical supplier(s) at the time of the first shipment of the chemical product(s). Suppliers are not required to send MSDSs again unless the MSDS is updated or changed to contain new or significant information about the chemical's hazards. Distributors also need only send the MSDS to the downstream user at the time of the initial shipment or when the MSDS is updated. These provisions are detailed in the HCS at section (g)(7). If the Brooks Beauty Supply company's customers are not commercial customers, then Mr. Brooks would need to supply the MSDS to these employers only upon request.

OSHA realizes that the requirement of the HCS to supply MSDSs and labels for hazardous chemicals may have imposed additional paperwork burdens on Mr. Brooks. However, as stated in the standard, the unimpeded downstream flow of hazard information is key to achieving the goals of the HCS. Distributors' transmittal of the MSDS and appropriate labels provide downstream employers with the information they need to implement employee protection programs. It also provides necessary hazard information to employees so they can participate in, and support, the protective measures in place at their workplaces.

In Mr. Brooks' letter to you, he urged that "some of the solutions that were set forth in the statements made before OSHA by Mr. Fred Polk" be addressed. In his statement, Mr. Polk spoke to the use of electronic information transmittal in lieu of a paper-only requirement for MSDSs at the worksite. The Agency has interpreted the MSDS availability requirement to allow the use of computers or telefax or any other means, as long as a readable copy of the MSDS is available to affected workers while they are in their work areas, during each workshift. The key to compliance with this provision is that employees have no barriers to access the information. This can be accomplished either by the employer maintaining a hard copy of the MSDS itself on-site, or, again, by using a computer or telefax system capable of producing the same readable copy on-site.

Mr. Brooks also states that it is "virtually physically and financially impossible to comply" with the HCS; yet in his letter he gives no specific examples of what requirement of the standard he finds impossible to meet. Under the authority given in Section 7(c)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Agency has enlisted the services of agencies within each State to provide free on-site consultation services for employers who want to improve their existing safety and health programs, need help in identifying and correcting specific hazards, and/or need further assistance in employee training and education. For more information on the OSHA Consultation Program, or for assistance in meeting hazard communication requirements, Mr. Brooks may want to contact:


7(c)(1) Onsite Consultation Program
Bureau of Industrial Safety and Health
Department of Labor and Employment Security
LaFayette Building, Room 204
2551 Executive Center Circle, West
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Telephone: (904) 488-3044

I hope this has been responsive to your constituent's concerns. If you need any further assistance, please feel free to contact us again.


Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary