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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.
June 20, 2017
Mr. Stuart Bailey
7501 E. Lowery Blvd.
Denver, Colorado 80230
Dear Mr. Bailey:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). Your letter requested clarification of OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (HCS 2012), 29 CFR 1910.1200, with regard to labeling of containers in the workplace and the availability of safety data sheets (SDS). This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to issues not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased questions and our responses are below.
Scenario: Your company purchases secondary containers for chemicals, which are bottles with pre-printed (embossed) labels that contain a specific chemical name (e.g., methanol, acetone), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) diamond, and health and physical hazard pictograms. The labels do not include the manufacturer’s name and address, nor does the label have a hazard statement.
Question 1: Does the pre-printed labeling on these bottles suffice for labeling secondary containers in the workplace under 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(6)(ii)?
Response: Yes. Section 1910.1200(f)(6)(ii) requires that workplace labeling include “product identifier and words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof, which provide at least general information regarding the hazards of the chemicals, and which, in conjunction with the other information immediately available to employees under the hazard communication program, will provide employees with the specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the hazardous chemical.” As such, paragraph (f)(6)(ii) does not require that workplace labeling include the manufacturer’s name and address, precautionary statements, or hazard statements. For additional detail regarding OSHA’s policy with respect to workplace labeling, see OSHA Instruction CPL 02-02-079, Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communications Standard (HCS 2012), dated July 9, 2015, Section X.F.3.:
Any employer who relies on one of these types of alternative labeling systems, instead of using labels containing complete health effects information will – in any enforcement action alleging the inadequacy of the labeling system – bear the burden of establishing that it has achieved a level of employee awareness which equals or exceeds that which would have been achieved if the employer had used labels containing complete health effects information.
Question 2: Do SDSs need to be immediately present to provide supplementary information? If so, how close do the SDSs need to be?
Response: As explained above, when following the workplace labeling requirements at paragraph (f)(6)(ii), employers must ensure that there is “other information immediately available to employees” to provide specific information regarding the chemical’s health and physical hazards. The SDS is one method that an employer may use to provide the requisite additional information. If an employer uses SDSs to provide the additional information, they must be immediately available to all employees in their work area throughout each work shift (e.g., not stored in a locked office). For additional detail regarding OSHA’s policy, see OSHA Instruction CPL 02-02-079, Section X.G.4. That Instruction also explains in detail how employees are to be provided with unrestricted access to SDS, including when workers are at remote work sites.
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 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