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.

September 11, 2013

Mr. John Davies, CIH
Henkel Corporation
32100 Stephenson Highway
Madison Heights, MI 48071

Dear Mr. Davies:

Thank you for your May 2, 2013, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Standards and Guidance. Your letter was forwarded to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for a response. Your question concerns the labeling requirements under the revised Hazard Communication standard (HCS 2012), 29 CFR 1910.1200. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements herein, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and our response is below.

Background: Henkel manufactures various adhesives and sealants. These products are sold in various size packages ranging from very large packages (drums and larger) to very small packages (tubes and syringes). Some of the containers are designed to work with specific dispensing equipment where the use of fold back labels, pull-out labels or tags could interfere with the application method. In addition, Henkel also sells products in collapsible tubes and other products that must be kept frozen. The collapsible tubes and frozen products pose additional problems with the use of fold back labels, pull-out labels or tags.

Question: Will OSHA accept, as a practical accommodation, a label that incorporates as many of the label elements as is practicable for the product in-question, which includes, at a minimum, the product identifier, appropriate hazard pictograms, supplier identification, and a reference to the SDS?

Response: No. The practical accommodation you suggest does not comply with the practical accommodation developed by OSHA. OSHA understands your concern that HCS 2012 labels contain more information, which may be difficult to include on small shipped containers. As such, OSHA developed a practical accommodation to address situations where the full HCS 2012 required labeling information cannot be provided through the use of pull-out labels, fold back labels, tags or other methods.

OSHA's practical accommodation requires the shipped small containers such as, syringes or tubes (i.e., the actual container holding the hazardous chemical), to contain, at a minimum, the following information:

  • Product identifier,
  • Appropriate pictograms,
  • Manufacturer's name and phone number,
  • Signal word,
  • A statement indicating the full label information for the chemical is provided on the outside package.

Additionally, the outside packaging, at a minimum, must comply with the following:

  • All the applicable label elements, as defined in 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1).
  • The outside package must be clearly marked to ensure the complete label elements are visible and it must clearly inform users that the small container must be stored in the outer container bearing the complete label. The complete label must be maintained on the outer package (e.g., not torn, defaced, destroyed).
  • The manufacturer must ensure that any alternative labeling used does not conflict with any other standards. As such, the outside packaging must not present a hazard while the material is being stored.

The outside packaging described above is the object (e.g., bag, box) that the immediate product container is placed into; it does not refer to the exterior shipping container. In no case is it acceptable to only label the outside packaging; the immediate container must be labeled. To provide the most information possible, OSHA encourages manufacturers, distributors, and importers to add as much information as feasible to the small shipped container labels.

Based on the requirements listed above, the practical accommodation you propose would not meet OSHA's requirements, because it fails to include hazard statements, signal words, and precautionary statements on the label. Rather than referencing the SDS, in cases where it is infeasible to include hazard statements, signal words, and precautionary statements directly on the immediate container's label, you would be permitted to provide this information on the outer packaging, so long as a statement indicating where the full label information can be found is included on the immediate container.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs