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.

November 1, 1999

Ms. Michele Sabulsky
HSE Associate
813 Frederick Road
Baltimore, Maryland 21228

Dear Ms. Sabulsky:

Thank you for your letter of August 17, 1999 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the carcinogenicity of silica and its classification on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for gaskets. Your question has been referred to the Directorate of Compliance Programs for response.

OSHA does not make hazard determinations on a case-by-case basis, since it is the manufacturer who is most familiar with a product's composition, its intended uses, and the potential downstream exposures. We are not generally involved in the hazard determination process until it is brought to our attention that the manufacturer's MSDS may be incomplete or inadequate.

Your letter seems to ask whether or not the gaskets your company produces are an "article" under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Articles do not present a hazardous exposure to employees and are exempt from coverage under the standard. Hopefully, the following guidance will be of assistance to you in making the determination of whether your product is an "article" or a "hazardous chemical."

A hazardous chemical is any chemical which is a health hazard or a physical hazard. Crystalline silica is considered a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). According to the HCS, any hazardous chemical determined to be a carcinogen by IARC, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), or regulated as a carcinogen by OSHA is considered a carcinogen for the purposes of the HCS and must be designated as such on the MSDS. Crystalline silica is clearly a hazardous chemical.

An "article" under the HCS is any manufactured item other than a fluid or particle which, 1) is formed to a specific shape or design during manufacture, 2) has end use function(s) dependent in whole or in part upon its shape or design during end use, and 3) which under normal conditions of use does not release more than very small quantities, e.g., minute or trace amounts of a hazardous chemical and does not pose a physical hazard or health risk to employees (29 CFR 1910.1200(c)).

Therefore, if at any time during employee handling of your product (for example, shipping, packaging, installation, or final use), the silica in your product is available for employee exposure (in quantities other than minute or trace amounts), then your product would not be considered an article and the potential health effects must be reported on the MSDS.

I hope that this provides the clarification you were seeking. If you require further assistance, please contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at 202-693-2190. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs