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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.
May 5, 2017
Mr. William Balek
Director of Legislative and Environmental Services
International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA)
3300 Dundee Road
Northbrook, Illinois 60062-2303
Dear Mr. Balek:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). Your letter requests guidance on labeling containers as required by the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within your original correspondence. Your questions have been paraphrased below, followed by our reply.
Background: ISSA is a non-profit trade association that represents manufacturers of chemical cleaning products. Many of these manufacturers produce private label products which are sold under a distributor’s proprietary label and trade name. These manufacturers commonly produce private label chemicals in advance for sale which are containerized and packaged as four one- gallon containers in one box or 12 quart containers in one box. Once these chemicals are packaged, they are often palletized and shrink-wrapped for storage awaiting purchase. Once orders have been received, ISSA manufacturers ensure that all chemical containers are labeled compliant to HCS.
Question 1: Can manufacturers and distributors of chemical cleaning products achieve HCS compliance by labeling only the outer box containing the chemical cleaning products while in storage?
Response: Paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1) requires manufacturers (and importers and distributors) to ensure that each shipped container leaving the workplace is labeled, tagged, or marked in accordance with paragraphs (f)(1)(i)-(vi). Sealed containers of chemical cleaning products that are boxed, but are temporarily stored at a manufacturer’s or third party warehouse, may be labeled in accordance with paragraph (f)(6). For this type of operation, if the unlabeled individual containers are kept in a sealed box with an HCS-compliant label (i.e., in accordance with paragraph (f)(6)) while in the warehouse, there is no requirement to affix an HCS-compliant label to each individual container. However, once the outer box is opened even while in the warehouse, then an HCS-compliant label must be affixed to each individual container of chemical cleaning product in accordance with paragraph (f)(1).
In addition, the HCS requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(4) would apply for a warehouse operation. Paragraph (b)(4) applies to work operations where employees only handle chemicals in sealed containers which are not opened under normal conditions of use (e.g., warehousing). During warehousing operations, employers shall ensure that labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals are not removed or defaced, maintain copies of any safety data sheets (SDSs) that are received with incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals and have the SDSs readily available upon employee request and during each work shift to employees when they are in their work area(s). Employers must also ensure that employees are provided with information and training (1910.1200(b)(4)(i)-(iii)).
Question 2: Is an HCS label placed only on the outside of a shrink-wrapped pallet containing multiple boxes with inner containers HCS-compliant while in storage?
Response: Applying an HCS label in accordance with paragraph (f)(6) to the outside of a shrink-wrapped pallet of chemical cleaning product while in storage (e.g., warehouse) is acceptable under the HCS. However, once the pallet is unwrapped in the warehouse each individual box containing chemical cleaning product must have an affixed HCS-compliant label in accordance with paragraph (f)(6).
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 ensure 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