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 2, 1995

Ms. Patricia H. Falls
CEO Firstline Safety Management, Inc.
PO Box 230 Lovettsville, VA 22080

Dear Ms. Falls:

Thank you for your letter of October 21, 1994, regarding revisions to OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). As discussed, following are responses to your questions regarding the application of the HCS in the construction industry.

1. Does 29 CFR 1926.59(e)(5) mean that service departments are no longer required to have MSDSs on their vehicles?

This issue is specifically addressed in paragraph (g)(9) of the standard; however, your letter does not provide sufficient detail to determine the need for MSDSs on your service department vehicles. As indicated in paragraph (g)(9) of the standard, if employees travel between workplaces during a workshift, the employer can maintain MSDSs in the primary workplace rather than in each mobile worksite (or in this case in a service department vehicle) provided that the employer ensures that employees can immediately obtain MSDS information in an emergency and can access it whenever they are in the primary workplace.

2. Does paragraph (f)(5)(ii) of the Hazard Communication Standard allow employers to use numerical or color-coded systems as a means of labelling hazardous chemicals?

As discussed in section III of the preamble of the revised HCS, the revisions to paragraph (f)(5)(ii) are primarily intended to accommodate in-plant labelling systems where the employer retains control over the entire hazard communication program within the workplace. Under these circumstances, alternative labelling systems such as numerical or color-coding systems that indicate the type and severity of a particular hazard may be acceptable so long as employers ensure compliance with other elements of their hazard communication program.

However, employers relying on an alternative labelling system must augment the training program to specifically address target organ effects that may not be readily discerned from a numerical or color-coded system; and must ensure that employees have the required immediate access to the data sheet, and understands the labelling system used and how to obtain and use the information provided.

Due to the nature of construction operations (i.e., transient workforce, employees often work at multiple sites, and multiple employers are often present on site), the use of these alternative labelling systems on construction sites may not be appropriate since the employer would likely not have control over the entire hazard communication program within the workplace and employees would often work on other sites that could use different labelling systems.

We hope this response addresses your concerns regarding the revised HCS. A copy of the revised standard is enclosed for your reference. If you have any additional questions, please contact Tom Galassi in the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs


October 21, 1994

Office Of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance
U.S. Department of Labor-OSHA Room N 3610
Washington, D.C. 20210

Attention: Roy Gurnham

Reference: Hazard Communication Changes FEDERAL REGISTER, Vol. 59, No. 271 Wednesday, February 9, 1994

Dear Mr. Gurnham:

Could you please answer the following questions pertaining to the law changes of the above referenced FEDERAL REGISTER.

1. Page 6174(e)(0)(5) - Does this mean service departments no longer have to have MSDS on their vehicles?

2. Page 6174(f)(5)(ii) - Does this mean that a contractor may use numerical or color coding as long as:

a) the system is included in their written program. b) employees are trained on the system. c) MSDS's are available to employees to provide additional information to affected employees.

d) the employer notifies other trades in written form about the system and where to get additional information.

Thank you for your prompt response to these questions.


Firstline Safety Management, Inc.
Patricia H. Falls
Chief Executive Officer Executive Vice President