- Standard Number:1910.1200(g)(6)
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.
June 24, 1996
Mr. Jason Scriven
4920 Carroll Canyon Road
San Diego, California 92121
Dear Mr. Scriven:
This letter is in response to your April 2 letter addressed to Mr. Joseph A. Dear, Assistant Secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Specifically, you raised three questions concerning the distribution of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) under OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. The questions and our response are provided below.
1. Can a manufacturer copyright an MSDS for purposes of controlling distribution?
A chemical manufacturer has the discretion to copyright an MSDS. The Hazard Communication Standard does not prohibit copyrighting an MSDS. Chemical manufacturers and importers are required by paragraph 1910.1200(g)(6) to ensure that distributors and employees are provided an appropriate MSDS with their initial shipment and with the first shipment after an MSDS is updated. Further, the rule states that a chemical manufacturer or importer shall also provide MSDS upon request.
OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard was promulgated to ensure that all employers receive the information they need to inform and train their employees properly on the hazardous chemicals they work with and to help design and put in place employee protection programs. It also provides necessary hazard information to employees, so they can participate in and support the protective measures in place at their workplaces. The fact that an MSDS is copyrighted should not interfere with the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or employer's ability to comply with this rule.
2. Once a manufacturer has distributed an MSDS to a business, can the manufacturer further dictate the downline distribution of an MSDS by that business?
As stated above, the chemical manufacturer has an obligation to provide MSDS to downstream users of their products (hazardous chemicals). The rule does not require them to provide it to anyone else. Chemical manufacturers cannot create barriers to the transmission of hazard information; distributors must be able to pass along the information to the users.
3. Can a manufacturer copyright the electronic mode of access to its MSDS, such as a floppy disk or CD ROM?
This issue is beyond the scope of the Hazard Communication Standard or any other OSHA standards. We recommend that you seek legal counsel to resolve this question.
Should you have any further questions, please contact our San Francisco Regional Office at (415) 744-6670. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.
John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs
April 2, 1996
Mr. Joseph Dear
and Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue
Dear Mr. Dear,
I am writing to you with specific questions regarding the Hazard Communication Standard and the provisions contained therein for maintenance and distribution of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
It has come to our attention, as a central depository of MSDS for many businesses across the U.S., that some manufacturers copyright their MSDS in order to accurately track the distribution of the MSDS. While it is clear that some management of the MSDS downline distribution is necessary, in copyrighting an MSDS for use only by those who purchased directly from the manufacturer, the manufacturer limits access by users who may have purchased the product from a third party or acquired it for use indirectly. This seems to be a direct contradiction of the Hazard Communication Standard and its intent to communicate workplace hazards to employees. Please address the following,
1. Can a manufacturer copyright an MSDS for purposes of controlling distribution? 2. Once a manufacturer has distributed an MSDS to a business, can the manufacturer further dictate the downline distribution of an MSDS by that business? 3. Can a manufacturer copyright the electronic mode of access to its MSDS, such as floppy disk or CD ROM?
Thank you in advance for your consideration and timely response to these inquiries. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns, (619) 677-0150.