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 11, 1990

Mr. Ron Phillips
Vice President
Sales Petrochemical Services, Inc.
2121 Chartres Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

Dear Mr. Phillips:

This is in response to your inquiry concerning the application of the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (29 CFR 1910.120) to cleaning petroleum storage tanks located in tank terminals and refineries.

Tank cleaning is covered by 29 CFR 1910.120 if any of the following apply:

1. A government body is requiring the tank to be removed because of the potential threat to the environment or the public;

2. The activities are necessary to complete a corrective action under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and amendments.

3. A governmental body has recognized the site to be contaminated with hazardous substances; or

4. There is a need for emergency response procedures.

Note: It is not a requirement that a release must have occurred in order to meet the above triggering elements.

On the other hand, where 1910.120 does not apply other OSHA standards, including 5(a)(1) of the Act would be applicable.

I hope this information is helpful.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs