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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.
March 27, 2015
Ms. Kristen Schulz
Environmental Resources Management, Inc.
9825 Kenwood Road, Suite 100
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242
Dear Ms. Schulz:
Thank you for your November 5 and November 13, 2013, letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs, and subsequent telephone conversation with a member of my staff. You requested clarification on the definition of an "article," as well as the labeling, safety data sheet (SDS), and training requirements of OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (HCS 2012), 29 CFR 1910.1200. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question or situation not delineated within your original correspondence. We apologize for the delay in our response. Your questions are paraphrased below followed by our responses.
Background: Your client manufactures ink cartridges outside of the United States and imports them for use by customers in large-scale commercial printers. The ink cartridge and printer employ design features engineered to prevent worker exposure during most stages of the product life cycle under normal conditions. In your letter dated November 5, you were seeking an interpretation on whether the ink cartridges could be considered an "article." However, in your second letter dated November 13, you described certain circumstances when maintenance workers may be exposed to ink when repairing printers.
You also stated the ink cartridge products have been classified as Category 3 or Category 4 flammable liquids according to the flash point test1, but they are not classified as flammable liquids under the United Nations' (U.N.) Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Your client believes that because the ink is 70 percent water and will not sustain combustion, and because of the design of the printer, there is no material risk of ignition of the ink in the cartridge or printer.
In addition, some of these ink cartridges contain ink classified as specific target organ toxicants-repeated exposure (STOT-RE) (route of exposure: oral) at concentrations greater than or equal to 1%. Your client believes that repeated exposure through ingestion is improbable and there is no risk for workers related to STOT-RE.
Question 1: Can an ink cartridge be considered to be an "article" per 1910.1200(c) of HCS 2012?
Response: For ink cartridges to qualify as "articles" they must satisfy the requirements specified in the definition of an article at 1910.1200(c):
"Article" means a manufactured item other than a fluid or particle: (i) which is formed to a specific shape or design during manufacture; (ii) which has end use function(s) dependent in whole or in part upon its shape or design during end use; and (iii) which under normal conditions of use does not release more than very small quantities, e.g., minute or trace amounts of a hazardous chemical (as determined under paragraph (d) of this section), and does not pose a physical hazard or health risk to employees.
OSHA does not make hazard classifications for manufacturers, since it is the manufacturer that is most familiar with a product's composition, the normal conditions of use (e.g., packaging, shipping, cutting, burning, heating, or any other processing), and the potential downstream exposures. In your November 13 letter, however, you indicated that potential exposure to the ink can occur when maintenance workers remove ink from the ink supply tubes and recovery units of printheads. You also stated that some of the ink cartridges are classified as Category 3 or 4 flammable liquids and as STOT-RE. Accordingly, it does not appear that the ink cartridges are articles under the HCS.
Question 2: Must the ink cartridge label(s) and SDSs contain information related to Category 3 or Category 4 flammable liquids, even if they are not classified as flammable liquids under the U.N. Recommendations?
Response: Yes. When a hazardous chemical has been classified as a flammable liquid according to Appendix B.6, Flammable Liquids, the hazard information is required to be on the label and SDS per 1910.1200(f) and (g). Appendix C.4.19, Flammable Liquids, provides the requirements for labeling Category 3 and 4 flammable liquids, and Appendix D, Table D.1, lays out the minimum requirements for SDSs.
That the ink is not considered flammable under the U.N. Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods does not mean it is not covered under the HCS. The preamble to HCS 2012 states, "...the physical hazard definitions in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification of Chemicals [GHS] are drawn from the United Nations' Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods," and, "[t]he primary differences involve exceptions that make the definitions more applicable to workplace situations (for example, coverage of flammable liquids that are currently defined as combustible under the HCS)." 77 FR 17574, 17697 (March 26, 2012). Therefore, any difference between the U.N. Recommendations and the HCS 2012 with regards to physical hazards was to account for the differences in transportation and the workplace.
Question 3: Must the ink cartridge label(s) and SDS(s) contain health hazard information related to STOT-RE?
Response: Yes. When a hazardous chemical has been classified as a STOT-RE in accordance with Appendix A.9, Specific Target Organ Toxicity- Repeated or Prolonged Exposure, the hazard information is required to be on the label and SDS, per 1910.1200(f) and (g). Appendix C.4.12, STOT-RE, specifies the labeling requirements for chemicals classified as STOT-RE, and as stated above, Appendix D, Table D.1, provides out the minimum requirements for SDSs.
Question 4: Is it acceptable to communicate the hazards of the ink to only the specific (maintenance) workers who are subject to exposure?
Response: Yes. The HCS requires employers to train employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous chemicals. If maintenance workers are the only employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to ink, the employer need not provide training on the hazards of ink to other employees. Employers are required to provide training when an employee receives his/her initial work assignment and whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into the employee's work area.
Question 5: Is it acceptable to communicate the hazards of the ink in a handbook rather than through labels on the ink cartridges, since cartridges are fitted to the printer and will have to be removed to read the label?
Response: No. In your November 5 letter, and in a conversation with a member of my staff, you indicated that your client manufactures and imports the ink cartridges containing hazardous chemicals, then ships the printers and ink cartridges to downstream customers for use. Paragraph 1910.1200(f)(1) requires manufacturers, importers, or distributors to ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals leaving the workplace is labeled, tagged or marked with the following information: (i) a product identifier; (ii) signal word; (iii) hazard statement(s); (iv) pictogram(s); (v) precautionary statement(s); and (vi) the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible party. Under the HCS, the label must be on the immediate container of the hazardous chemical. See 2012 Valasek letter of interpretation.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 Table B.6.1 in Appendix B to HCS 2012 contains the classification criteria for flammable liquids. Appendix B.6.3 of the HCS 2012 states, "The flash point shall be determined in accordance with ASTM D56-05, ASTM D3278, ASTM D3828, ASTM D93-08 (incorporated by reference; See Â§1910.6), or any other method specified in GHS Revision 3, Chapter 2.6."