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 http://www.osha.gov.

May 5, 1995

Mr. T.P. Dowling, P.E. Manager, Technical Services
Institute of Makers of Explosives
1120 19th Street, N.W., Suite 310
Washington, D.C. 20036-3605

Dear Mr. Dowling:

Thank you for your letter of May 2, 1994, regarding explosives' packing materials. Please accept our sincere apologies for the delay in our response which was due to reasons beyond our control.

In your letter you have inquired whether uncontaminated and safe packing materials used for packaging explosives could be reused or disposed of using methods other than burning. OSHA Standards (29 CFR 1910.109(e)(2)(i) and 1926.900(l)) require that packing materials which were used for packaging explosives must be burned. Based on the information that you have provided, however, we agree with your assessment that the reuse of such packaging material would not necessarily pose a safety problem.

As you have indicated in your letter, these regulations were designed to prevent the accumulation or improper disposal of explosive-contaminated packaging materials which could create a safety hazard. At this time, however, OSHA is aware that the subject standards require some interpretation to reflect the new technology and to be consistent with the other regulatory agencies, and newer consensus standards.

OSHA would regard the recycling, reuse, or disposal of uncontaminated packaging as acceptable and in keeping with the intent of the standards, so long as the packaging materials meet the requirements specified by USDOT in 49 CFR and present no safety hazard to personnel required to transport, handle or use the explosives, or to dispose of the packaging by means other than those required by the OSHA Standards.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We hope that you find this response helpful. If we can be of further assistance, please contact Alcmene Haloftis of my staff at 202-219-8031.

Sincerely,

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

Attachment



May 2, 1994

Mr. H. Barrien Zettler, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs
United States Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Sir,

I am writing on behalf of the Institute of Makers of Explosives (IME) to see if we could get a letter of interpretation to clarify Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements that packing materials which were used for packaging explosives must be burned after they are emptied of the explosives. This provision is contained in both the General Safety and Health Standards at 1910.109(e)(2)(i) and in the construction Safety and Health Standards at 1926.900(l).

As written, these regulations would, no doubt, be interpreted by OSHA Inspectors to require that ALL packaging materials which previously contained explosives must be destroyed by burning. The regulations are, of course, designed to prevent the accumulation or improper disposal of explosive contaminated packaging materials which could create a safety hazard. The chief cause of explosive contamination was, originally, the leaking of nitroglycerine, ethylene glycol dinitrate, or other liquid organic nitrate components into the packaging materials. At one time probably in excess of ninety (90) percent of the explosives used in the United States contained liquid organic nitrate sensitizer. Today less than two (2) percent of the explosives used contain these components.

Also, under current U.S., Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations which were revised December 31, 1991, to conform to the United Nations Recommendations, the packaging of explosives is based upon performance oriented standards and the reuse of packing material is permitted (49 CFR 173.28). In the interest of conservation it is just good practice to reuse packaging material for the shipment of explosives as long as the packaging materials meet the requirements specified by the USDOT in 49 CFR and presents no safety hazard to personnel required to transport, handle, or use the explosives.

As precedent, the Federal government has permitted the reuse of fiberboard shipping containers for many years. The "Newman" style boxes which were utilized to ship explosives from the various government arsenals to contractors were specifically intended for multi-shipments. To the best of our knowledge there has never been a safety problem with this type of explosive packaging.

IME is the safety association of the commercial explosives industry in North America and its member companies and subsidiaries manufacture and transport about ninety (90) percent of the commercial explosives used in the United States. IME has long realized that in many situations "open burning" is the safest and surest way to dispose of explosives or explosive contaminated materials (packaging materials, etc). However, today with all of the environmental concerns regarding air pollution, and the bans by Federal, state, and local authorities on "open burning" it is becoming more and more difficult to justify requirements to "open burn" packaging material that is uncontaminated and which presents no safety hazard to personnel. Reuse or other disposal methods are safe and acceptable for uncontaminated materials.

IME concurs that any inner packaging materials which have been in contact with explosives and are contaminated should be destroyed by open burning or other approved methods. Uncontaminated packaging should be permitted to be recycled, reused, or disposed of in accordance with procedures presently accepted by USDOT and environmental agencies.

IME would be happy to meet with OSHA personnel to discuss this matter in more detail and if necessary furnish exemplars to demonstrate the reuse of uncontaminated packaging materials.

Thank you for your kind consideration in this matter.

Very truly yours,

T. P. Dowling
Manager, Technical Services