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.

February 25, 1993

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Congressman Lugar:

This is in response to your letter dated January 13, to Ms. Frances McNaught of the Department of Labor. Your letter has been forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for response.

A constituent of yours, Mr. Harley W. Rhodehamel, wrote to you asking why a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for salt was required by OSHA. We will explain the MSDS requirements of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) briefly for your constituent's benefit, and provide reasons for Sigma Chemical Company's decision to create the MSDS.

OSHA promulgated the HCS, codified as 29 CFR 1910.1200, to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported in the U.S. are evaluated, and that information concerning their hazards is transmitted to employers and employees. The standard applies to all hazardous chemicals to which employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency. The responsibility for determining whether a product is hazardous belongs to the manufacturer or importer of the chemical -- not OSHA.

OSHA is aware that some manufacturers prepare MSDSs on products that are not necessarily covered by the HCS. It is our understanding that this is done for product liability reasons, to satisfy regulations from several agencies at once (such as DOT's or EPA's requirements), and in response to customer requests for MSDSs on all products regardless of their hazards (sometimes an MSDS will state that the material is not covered by 29 CFR 1910.1200 -- a practice that is encouraged by OSHA). OSHA compliance staff review the quality of MSDSs when complaints are filed by the users of an MSDS and during the course of routine OSHA inspections. This is effective in ensuring that employees are given vital information about the hazards in their workplace.

The HCS exempts a consumer product if it meets the criteria in 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(6)(vii), which requires that the employer demonstrate that using the consumer product would result in a "duration and frequency of exposure which is not greater than exposures experienced by consumers." In other words, when chemicals which are normally used by a consumer, such as sodium chloride, are used by employees in a manner that is not comparable to typical consumer use, the HCS requires that a hazard determination be done.

Sigma Chemical Company created the MSDS in question for places of work where sodium chloride is used in large quantities, i.e. in industrial settings. Sigma Chemical Company's MSDS provides information that is important for the employer and employee to know. Specifically, when airborne sodium chloride dust is inhaled it can cause respiratory irritation, and at high enough levels employees are to wear a respirator. Further, the MSDS warns the employer that sodium chloride is incompatible with strong oxidizing agents and strong acids, and reacts violently with bromine triflouride and lithium.

As an employer doing business in the State of Indiana, Mr. Rhodehamel may want to contact the Indiana Department of Labor. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, States are permitted to assume responsibility for their own occupational safety and health programs under a plan approved and closely monitored by Federal OSHA; the Indiana Department of Labor operates under such a plan. As a condition of plan approval, States are required to adopt and enforce standards that are either identical to or "at least as effective" as the Federal standards. For information regarding the requirements of Indiana standards, Mr. Rhodehamel may want to contact:

Indiana Department of Labor
1013 State Office Building
100 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2287

Telephone: (317) 232-2665

For further information on hazard communication, enclosed is a copy of the OSHA booklet "Chemical Hazard Communication" which explains the standard and employer's responsibility under the rule. We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.



Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs



Harley W. Rhodehamel
8416 Olin Road
Indianapolis, IN 46278

June 1, 1992

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar
SH 306
Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 29510

Dear Senator Lugar:

I attach a Material Safety Data Sheet for the safe handling of table salt as required by a governmental agency. One could wax sarcastically about this travesty suggesting that next we will be faced with recommendations for handling sugar or even water. Certainly, something is out of control!