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.

November 29, 2018

Ms. Ashlee Fitch
USW Health, Safety and Environment Department
United Steelworkers
60 Boulevard of the Allies
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222

Dear Ms. Fitch:          

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs.  You had a question regarding the requirements contained in OSHA’s new standard for Occupational Exposure to Beryllium, 29 CFR 1910.1024 (Beryllium standard).  Your letter requests information on the use of dissolvable laundry bags and whether they comply with the provisions for personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE), specified at paragraph 1910.1024(h)(2)(v).  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 are below.

Background:  In your letter, you state that it is common practice for commercial laundries to use laundry bags that dissolve in the washing machine when exposed to agitating hot water for laundering work clothing and PPE contaminated with hazardous particulate.  You also state that dissolvable bags are constructed to ensure that hazardous particulates remain contained in the bag, thereby reducing the open handling of contaminated work clothing and PPE by plant workers, transporters and laundry workers.     

Question: Does the use of dissolvable bags for removal of beryllium-contaminated work clothing and PPE from the workplace, for the purpose of laundering and cleaning, meet the requirement at 1910.1024(h)(2)(v) that contaminated work clothing and PPE must be stored and transported in sealed bags or other closed containers that are impermeable?

Response:  OSHA’s Beryllium standard, at paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1024(h)(2)(v), states that when PPE required by the standard is removed from the workplace for laundering, cleaning, maintenance or disposal, the employer must ensure that it is stored and transported in “sealed bags or other closed containers that are impermeable” and are properly labeled, in accordance with paragraph 1910.1024(m)(3) and the Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).

OSHA considers a bag to be impermeable if it meets two requirements: 

1) The bag must be made of material that, when closed, does not allow particles or dust to escape; and
2) The bag must be of sufficient quality so it cannot be punctured or torn in the specific situation of its use, storage, or transport.

If the dissolvable bag meets both of these requirements, then OSHA would consider the bag to be impermeable under 1910.1024(h)(2)(v) even though the bag is designed to dissolve in agitating hot water.  This is consistent with other OSHA interpretations for impermeable bags (see OSHA letter to Michael Sember, dated April 26, 1994; and OSHA letter to Kathryn McMahon-Lohrer, dated May 31, 2007).

Whether a dissolvable bag meets the two requirements above depends on the bag manufacturer’s quality and integrity testing for its known or intended use, which should also include input from downstream employers concerning the bag’s performance during normal conditions of use.

Additional information about the final rule is available on OSHA’s beryllium webpage.  OSHA also provides compliance assistance resources to help employers, particularly small businesses, meet the requirements of the final rule.  For compliance assistance, please contact a compliance assistance specialist at www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/cas, or visit OSHA’s compliance assistance webpage at www.osha.gov/employers.  In addition, employers and employees can call (800) 321-OSHA toll-free for workplace safety and health information or assistance 24 hours a day.

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.

Sincerely,

 

Kimberly Stille, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs