- Standard Number:
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.
December 6, 1990
Mr. John E. Lee III
Director of Safety and Loss Control
National Oats Company
1515 H Avenue N.E.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402
Dear Mr. Lee:
Thank you for your letter of October 25, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding material safety data sheets (MSDSs) under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. Your letter enclosed a MSDS for a chemical product which you questioned and transmitted a copy of an article from the American Society of Safety Engineer's magazine, Professional Safety, which discusses MSDS use in the workplace.
As you may know, the responsibility, under the HCS, for the development and accuracy of information transmitted on the MSDS is the chemical manufacturer's or importer's. The MSDS you enclosed with your letter contained information which you believe may be in error and misleading, including the listing of the hazardous ingredients in the product and the manufacturer's recommendations for personal protective equipment.
We note that you have written the Federal OSHA Area Office in Des Moines, Iowa, with your concerns over the accuracy of the MSDS information. That office has received your letter and is handling your inquiry to them in accordance with OSHA referral procedures, as set forth in the OSHA compliance directive CPL 2-2.38C, "Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard," dated October 22, 1990. A copy of that document is enclosed for your reference. When a MSDS is found to be inadequate or deficient, the chemical manufacturer is contacted by OSHA and requested to correct the error within 30 days. If an inadequate response is received, the manufacturer may be inspected by OSHA and the hazard determination procedures of the chemical manufacturer are reviewed, resulting in the development of an accurate MSDS and its subsequent transmittal to downstream users.
There are, at the present time, over 650,000 chemical substances in use in American workplaces. OSHA, in enforcing the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard, strives to ensure that the information transmitted by chemical manufacturers and importers on their MSDSs and labels for the hazardous chemicals they produce or import is accurate and complete.
However, the Agency does not review all MSDSs before their transmittal; to do so would be beyond the capability of OSHA's resources. OSHA does, however, review a representative number of the on-site MSDSs whenever an OSHA inspection is conducted. Appendix C of the attached Instruction provides "Hazard Evaluation Procedures" for use by OSHA compliance personnel when evaluating MSDSs, and Appendix D, "Guide to Reviewing MSDS Completeness" is also followed during Agency evaluation of workplace MSDSs. In addition to on-site review, the Agency reviews MSDSs as a result of referrals such as yours or referrals from other sources which call our attention to inaccurate MSDS information.
On May 17 of this year, OSHA published in the Federal Register a request for comments and information from the public regarding suggestions for improving the presentation and quality of chemical hazard information transmitted under the HCS. The issues the Agency raised in this notice are very similar to those raised in the magazine article you sent with your letter. A copy of the notice is enclosed for your information and review. Please note that the comment period for this request ended August 15. The Agency received over 500 comments on the issues raised and is still in the process of reviewing them. A copy of the complete docket is available for public review in OSHA's Docket Office; for your information, the docket is No. H-022G.
Thank you again for your letter, and we hope this response helps alleviate the several concerns you raised. For your further information, you may want to know that each of OSHA's ten Regional Offices has a Hazard Communication Coordinator who may be helpful in answering any future concerns you may have. In the Kansas City Regional Office, the Hazard Communication Coordinator is Mr. Glenn Taylor. Mr. Taylor may be reached at:
911 Walnut Street, Room 406
Kansas City, Missouri 64106
Telephone: (816) 426-5861
Gerard F. Scannell