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.

July 15, 1993

Mr. Richard Wertenberger
RA/QA Administrator
Baxter Diagnostics, Inc.
Burdick & Jackson
1953 South Harvey Street
Muskegon, Michigan 49442.9979

Dear Mr. Wertenberger:

This is a further response to your letter of January 25, and to the recent telephone conversations you had with Mr. James C. Dillard of my staff, in which you requested an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) 29 CFR 1910.106, Flammable and Combustible Liquid standard, as it pertains to the maximum allowable container sizes identified in Table H-12 of the standard. Please accept our apology for the delay in our response.

In your letter, you requested an interpretation of whether OSHA will allow the use of Department of Transportation (DOT) Spec. 34 containers, with the maximum container capacity of 20 liters (5 gal.), for the storage of Class IB, IC, II and III liquids in a manner consistent with the requirements of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 30, 1990 edition), Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code standard.

Similarly, you sought an interpretation of whether the laboratory storage of these flammable and combustible liquids in the DOT Spec. 34 polyethylene shipping containers must be limited to approved cabinets and separate inside storage rooms, as prescribed by 1910.106, or can be allowed to be stored on bench tops in general laboratory work areas in quantities based on the laboratory design and construction requirements of NFPA 45, Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals. In accordance with the latter standard laboratories must be equipped "with adequate fire protection", with the amount of storage only restricted by the "authority having jurisdiction".

OSHA accepts as meeting the intent of its standards the requirements of Chapter 4-2.3 of NFPA 30, 1990, which allows the use of polyethylene portable containers.

OSHA adopted the 1969 NFPA-30 standard when it promulgated its 1910.106 standards. At that time, NFPA did not recognize the use of polyethylene containers (DOT Spec. 34 or as authorized by DOT Exemption) for the storage of flammable and combustible liquids. Since that time, technology changes have occurred to warrant such recognition. Employers who comply with a proposed standard or amendment or a consensus standard rather than with the standard in effect at the time of the inspection will receive no citation, provided that the method of compliance provides equal or greater employee protection to that of the existing standard. The enclosed pages from OSHA Instruction CPL 2.45B, of June 15, 1992, further explain this policy.

With respect to your second interpretation request, the laboratory storage of flammable and combustible liquids in polyethylene containers on benchtops in general laboratory work areas must meet the requirements of 1910.106. OSHA did not propose to promulgate NFPA 45 (as it did with NFPA 30) through its rulemaking procedures. OSHA can refer to NFPA 45 as an industry recognized practice when assessing compliance with the OSH Act. Employers with laboratory receiving and storage facilities designed and constructed to meet the fire protection requirements of NFPA 45 may wish to seek a variance, as provided at 29 CFR 1905.11, where working conditions provided to employees are as safe as those provided by the OSHA standard. All questions about variances should be addressed to the following:

[Jennifer Silk, Director
Office of Technical Programs and Coordination Activites
U.S. Department of Labor-OSHA
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Room N3655
Washington, D.C. 20210]

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact [the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-1850].


Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs