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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 https://www.osha.gov.
August 25, 2015
Mr. Kenneth L. Newman
Kleen Products, Inc.
PO Box 852100
Yukon, OK 73085-2100
Dear Mr. Newman:
Thank you for your February 9, 2015, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. Your question concerns 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 questions and our responses are below.
Background: Kleen Products, Inc., manufactures four different formulas of hand cleaners of various sizes and packages seven additional products for distribution. Our packaging process requires silk screening to be applied directly on the container before it is filled with the product on an automated production line. The process utilizes a single color application and the equipment is an investment of $200,000. New equipment that would produce multiple colors range in price from $300,000 to $1,000,000, which we feel would put a tremendous financial burden on the company.
Question 1: Would OSHA allow the use of the pictogram to be printed on containers to match the single color currently screened?
Response: Unfortunately, we are unable to allow the accommodation you have requested. Appendix C.2.3.1 to 29 CFR 1910.1200, Allocation of Label Elements (Mandatory), specifically states that "pictograms shall be in the shape of a square set at a point and shall include a black hazard symbol on a white background with a red frame sufficiently wide to be clearly visible." This requirement applies equally to companies of all sizes to assure uniformity of label elements used on hazardous chemicals. Single-color pictograms are only allowed on safety data sheets and workplace (in-house) labelling. OSHA encourages you to look at all of your potential options when assessing your options in updating your labels such as tags, pull-out labels, or fold-back labels. Please note when tags are used, they must be affixed to the immediate container of the hazardous chemical in such a way that they do not become separated from the container.
The preamble of the 2012 Hazard Communication Federal Register (Volume 77, No. 58, March 26, 2012, pg. 17590) discusses the reasons for the red frame of the pictogram. The use of a red border pictogram on labels is effective in communicating hazards to employees in a non-verbal means. Studies showed that the color red will make warnings more noticeable, because red borders are generally perceived to reflect the greatest degree of hazard. A warning label with a notable color will more likely grab the attention of the user faster and produce quicker reaction time. Allowing only a red border creates a degree of consistency in warnings to all labels that will ensure workers are protected.
During the development of the HCS 2012, OSHA was required to determine if this standard was economically feasible. This is explained in Section VI of the preamble of the 2012 Hazard Communication Federal Register (Volume 77, No. 58, March 26, 2012, pgs. 17605-17683). The Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act (SBREFA), required OSHA to determine if the regulation had a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. The preamble explains how it determined the significant impact on small entities as a whole and the benefits of a uniform labeling system.
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 Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs