Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

May 8, 1992


                   COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS


Recently, it has come to our attention that there is some misunderstanding about the interface of 1910.120 and several other OSHA standards. The purpose of this communication is to resolve any confusion concerning 1910.120's interface with other standards.


The Hazard Communication Standard, although it requires training in emergency procedures, does not require that emergency procedures be developed. The employer is required to develop emergency procedures in other standards such as 1910.120, 1910.38(a) where referenced, and health standards with emergency response provisions. The HAZCOM training must include information about emergency response procedures that have been developed. The next revision of the HAZCOM standard will clarify this position. [CPL 2-2.38D, Appendix A further clarifies this issue.]


It was never the intent to leave a coverage gap for emergency preplanning and training individuals who respond to emergencies. The first preplanning step under 1910.120(q) requires the employer to make a determination of whether they have a potential for an emergency resulting from hazardous substance. OSHA considers 1910.120 to have a broad coverage for emergency response, in the sense that it applies to all employers who will have their employees respond to an emergency. This broad coverage will necessitate flexibility in enforcement of the various provisions of 1910.120(q). Further guidance on this will follow.


1910.120 specifically states that in the event of an overlap between itself and another standard the more protective standard will apply. 1910.120 requires an evacuation of all workers during an emergency or development a comprehensive emergency response plan encompassing all hazardous substances that have the potential to cause an emergency if released. Compliance with emergency response provisions of specific health standards provide component pieces of the larger plan. If an employer intends to require their employees to respond to an emergency caused by the release of hazardous substance the employer must comply with both the requirements of the substance specific health standard, if it contains emergency response provisions and 1910.120 to the extent that any 1910.120 requirements are more protective or not addressed in the specific health standard.

The Directorate of Health Standards Programs has been encouraged to reference 1910.120 in the specific health standards and, if necessary, incorporate substance specific guidance and requirements for emergencies caused by the release of the substance. This guidance will be particularly helpful when there are specific properties or hazards of a substance that need to be considered in preparation for potential emergencies caused by an uncontrolled release of the substance. The substance specific emergency response guidance in individual health standards will serve to more clearly define the substance specific components of the larger 1910.120 emergency response plan.


1910.120(q) does not cover responses to incidental spills per se. OSHA will enforce other applicable standards such as 1910.1200, 1910.132, 1910.134, etc. for these situations to the extent that no emergencies could develop. Once workers are required to respond to incidental spills that have the potential for becoming an emergency then the appropriate requirements of 1910.120(q) are applicable. The level of training required is based on the responsibilities and duties expected of a worker during an emergency response operation.

Future enforcement guidelines will incorporate these determinations. Any questions you may have should be referred to the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2190.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.