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.

January 30,1991

The Honorable Bob McEwen
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman McEwen:

Thank you for letter of December 10, 1990, to Patricia K. Clark, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. Your letter transmitted a letter of November 7, 1990, from your constituent, Mr. David L. Wolf of the Ohio Hardware Association in Columbus, Ohio.

We believe that we have already fully addressed Mr. Wolf's concerns regarding material safety data sheet (MSDS) distribution to retail hardware store customers in our two previous letters of May 16 and October 15, 1990. A copy of these two replies, which discuss at length the concerns Mr. Wolf raised, are enclosed for your information and reference.

In his November 7, 1990 letter, Mr. Wolf asserts that we did not previously answer one of the questions he raised, specifically: "How do retailers distribute the MSDSs received from upstream sources?" Our letters make it clear that retail hardware store dealers (or any other operation that distributes hazardous chemicals to employers who will be requiring their employees to work with them) must have on hand and make available upon request a MSDS for each of those chemicals. Employers who buy consumer products for workplace use do not have to have an MSDS for that product if their employee's workplace use of that chemical is or will be as a consumer would use it. If their workplace use will be or is of a greater frequency or duration than normal consumer use, then the employer has an obligation under the HCS to obtain an MSDS for that chemical and make it available to his employees. It is the employer's responsibility to anticipate levels of chemical use by his employees and request the MSDS at the time of purchase. The employer obtains the MSDS from the retailer. The retailer is responsible for maintaining a copy of the MSDS which he receives from the chemical manufacturer with the initial shipment of that chemical or whenever the MSDS is updated or changed to contain new or significant information about the chemical's hazards.

We hope this clarifies this issue for your constituent. In our previous correspondence to Mr. Wolf, we indicated that the Hazard Communication Coordinator in our Chicago Regional Office, Ms. Ann Williams, would be happy to discuss these issues further with him and provide him with any assistance he may need. The Chicago Regional Office's telephone number is: (312) 353-2220. Thank you again for your letter, and feel free to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.


Gerald F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary