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.

December 1, 1998

Mr. J. J. Wherry
Grinding Wheel Institute
30200 Detroit Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44145-1967

Dear Mr. Wherry:

We have received your letter of August 6, addressed to Mr. John B. Miles Jr., Director, Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs (DCP), in which you asked questions regarding labeling under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. Thank you for your inquiry. For clarity, your questions are paraphrased below.

1. What tests or exposure scenarios are required to establish a standard of proof for the article exemption?

The HCS does not require testing to determine the presence of a hazardous chemical. The rule covers chemicals which are "known to be present." The release of a very small quantity (that is, a few molecules or trace amounts) of a hazardous chemical is not covered by the rule. For instance, one may assume that an item, such as newly varnished furniture, emits chemicals. This, however, would not be covered under the HCS.

This definition of the article exemption has not changed since the standard was originally published in 1983. In 1994, the definition was amended to provide clarification. Further guidance is provided on page 31865 of the Federal Register, Volume 52, Number 163, published on Monday, August 24, 1987.

2. When testing "as a whole" for hazard determination, what are the full range of tests required to establish the presence or absence of a hazard?

There is no pre-set list of testing requirements. Manufacturers may test a mixture "as a whole" or may rely on tests which have been scientifically conducted. The purpose of the hazard determination is to provide known information for the elements listed under paragraph (g) of the standard. It is the manufacturer's prerogative to "test as a whole" for any or none of these elements.

3. Grinding wheels, superabrasive products, and sandpaper do not create an exposure during shipment. Are these items subject to labeling provisions under paragraph (f)(1) or paragraph (f)(2) of the standard?

Labeling requirements for items which are solid materials, but do not classify as articles, are described in paragraph (f)(2) of the standard.

We hope that this information is helpful. Please feel free to contact OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2190 if further guidance is needed.


Richard E. Fairfax
Directorate of Compliance Programs