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 9, 1992

Mr. Eugene M. Lyons
Education Chairman
Penn Jersey Chapter ASSE
34 Farmbrook Drive
Hamilton, N.J. 08690

Dear Mr. Lyons:

This is in response to your letter of May 29 to the Technical Data Center of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was forwarded to the Directorate of Compliance Programs for response. We apologize for the delay in responding.

In your letter you requested guidance on the possibility of obtaining an exemption from the 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(2) standard, which limits the use of plastic containers (which must be approved), to no more than one quart (0.9l) capacity when used for Class IB flammable liquids.

The standard at 1910.106(d) is applicable to industrial plants and processing plants covered by 1910.106(e) and (i) respectively but not to bulk plants, service stations, refineries, chemical plants and distilleries, which are otherwise covered by 1910.106. In addition to 1910.106(d)(2), the standards at 1910.106(d)(5)(i), (ii) and (vi) are applicable to the detached storage buildings referenced in your letter.

You made reference to the container exemption note (medicines, beverages, foodstuff, etc.) for Table H-12 in 1910.106 and asked whether it is possible to extend this exemption to the storage of ethyl alcohol which subsequently is supplied to pharmaceutical manufacturing customers. Only through the rulemaking process could such an extension be provided. However, OSHA has determined that it is a "de minimis" violation of 1910.106(d)(2) to store combustible and flammable liquids in plastic containers in the workplace under certain conditions, which follow. [De minimis violations are violations of existing OSHA standards which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Such violations of the OSHA standards result in no citation, no penalty and no required abatement.]

Department of Transportation (DOT) specification, non- specification polyethylene and non-regulated containers for storing combustible and flammable liquids are permissible under the following conditions:

1. The liquid within the plastic container has a DOT exemption in effect for shipment in such containers and is identified as meeting the requirements of the DOT exemption.

2. The plastic container storage area is provided with a fire detection system designed and installed to detect incipient stage fires and interconnected with an employee emergency alarm system which will effectively alert employees when fire is detected.

3. In locations where employees are expected to perform fire fighting, the plastic container storage area is provided with a fixed automatic fire suppression system designed and installed to control, if not extinguish, a fire involving the stored plastic containers.

4. Employees, except members of fire brigades, will be totally evacuated from the plastic container storage area at the time of initial fire detection. Where fire brigades are provided, member employees will be trained in the specific methods for fighting fires involving plastic containers, and in the recognition of hazards associated with fire fighting in such storage areas.

5. For storage buildings, the plastic container storage areas are provided with diking, or curbing and drainage, which will contain the volume of stored liquids and the anticipated flow of fire extinguishing agent, and drain it to a remote impounding area having no employee exposure. Employee emergency exit routes may not intersect or pass over or under open drainage paths.

The Factory Mutual Research Corporation Data Sheet 7-29 requirements for storage in and dispensing of flammable liquids from plastic drums in detached buildings with automatic fire suppression systems diking or curbing to contain the volume of stored liquids does not address and therefore does not satisfy all of the preceding conditions.

We appreciate your interest in occupational safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Roger A. Clark,
Directorate of Compliance Programs