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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.
July 25, 2019
Mr. James Lee
Senior Compliance Analyst
5600 Lindbergh Dr.
Loveland, Colorado 80538
Dear Mr. Lee:
Thank you for your letter and follow up email to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs, regarding labeling requirements under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements herein and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within your original response. Your question is summarized below, followed by our reply.
Background: Your company manufactures buffer and reagent chemicals and packages these chemicals in small plastic powder pillows (less than 5 ml in capacity) measuring approximately 1.125 inch x 0.6 inch in size. The labels used for these powder pillows are in accordance to OSHA’s small package “practical accommodation” which involves having each powder pillow (immediate container) display the product identifier, signal word, pictogram, company name, and telephone number.
One of your facilities is nearing its maximum processing capacity for labeling powder pillows and you wish to ship unlabeled powder pillows in bulk packages from this facility to a second facility for HCS compliant labeling. You referred to existing guidance that allows use of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) label in lieu of OSHA’s HCS labeling on exterior packaging (shipping containers) for bulk shipments of hazardous chemicals. You inquired whether that approach would be acceptable for bulk shipment of unlabeled powder pillows to your second facility.
Question: Can a manufacturer wait to affix HCS labels to the immediate containers of hazardous chemicals until after an intra-company shipment has taken place, but prior to final processing and shipment to customers?
Reply: No. OSHA’s HCS requires that each container of hazardous chemicals leaving the workplace is labeled, tagged, or marked in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1)(i)-(vi). OSHA has reviewed your requested alternative approach to HCS labeling of the powder pillows after intra-company shipment to a second facility and finds it unacceptable. You state that you are shipping small containers of “work in progress” chemicals, however, OSHA views the unlabeled packaged powder pillows as immediate containers being shipped without proper HCS labeling. OSHA’s HCS labeling requirements are meant to be applied to the container that immediately holds the hazardous substance. So, the “practical accommodation” for HCS labeling of small packages is intended to be applied to the immediate containers when the outside packaging complies with all the applicable label elements, as defined in 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1), before leaving the originating facility. This is to assure that HCS labeling of hazardous chemicals are in place in the event of an accident at any point during or after shipping it from the facility of origin.
As you noted in your letter, there is a joint DOT/OSHA guidance on bulk shipments which allows “either labeling the immediate container with hazard information or transmitting the required label with shipping papers, bills of lading, or by other technological or electronic means so that it is immediately available to workers in printed form on the receiving end of a shipment.” This guidance applies only to bulk shipments of hazardous chemicals that are loaded into large primary containers (i.e., tanker trucks or rail car) that have no intermediate form of containment. As the powder pillows are an immediate container or in this case an intermediate container to the external shipping container, each powder pillow must have an HCS compliant label. To further point out, OSHA has not adopted the DOT definition of bulk packaging as equivalent to HCS 2012 compliant bulk shipment as detailed in the guidance.
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.
Patrick J. Kapust, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs