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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.
April 23, 2021
Ms. Chandra Deeds Gioiello
8 Huntington Street, Suite 290
Shelton, CT 06484
Dear Ms. Gioiello:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Directorate of Enforcement Programs. Your letter requested guidance on how to classify cloth-like wipes saturated with a hazardous solution 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 questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your questions were paraphrased, followed by our response.
Background: Wipe products consist of a solid cloth-like wipe saturated with varying concentrations of a hazardous solution. In some cases, there is free liquid in the container to keep the wipes moist and in others there is no liquid visible. There is a wide range of wipe products with a variety of health and physical hazards (e.g., eye irritant, flammability). The Department of Transportation (DOT) has a transport classification (4.1) for solids containing flammable liquids as long as there is no free liquid.
Question 1: How should a cloth-like wipe saturated with a hazardous solution be classified under OSHA’s HCS? Should the liquid be classified separately from the solid cloth-like wipe? Should the mass of the wipe be considered when classifying for health hazards?
Response: The HCS places responsibility for hazard classification on the manufacturer or importer of the chemical or product. See 29 CFR §§ 1910.1200(b)(1) and (d)(1). Classification is based on employee exposure under normal conditions of use or foreseeable emergencies. See 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(2).
Based on your description, the cloth-like wipe itself (i.e., unsaturated) appears not to be hazardous and could be considered an “article” under the HCS if it meets all of the criteria set out in the definition. The definition of “[a]rticle” under the HCS is:
A manufactured item other than a fluid or particle: (i) which is formed to a specific shape or design during manufacture; (ii) which has end use function(s) dependent in whole or in part upon its shape or design during end use; and (iii) which under normal conditions of use does not release more than very small quantities, e.g., minute or trace amounts of a hazardous chemical (as determined under paragraph (d) of this section), and does not pose a physical hazard or health risk to employees. 29 CFR § 1910.1200(c).
The purpose of the saturated cloth-like wipe in the scenario described is to facilitate the use of the hazardous liquid. Therefore, a cloth-like wipe that is saturated with a hazardous chemical would not be considered an “article” since the hazardous chemical is released under normal conditions of use. The saturated wipe must therefore be classified under the HCS.
Because the cloth-like wipe is simply the mechanism by which the hazardous liquid is used, the hazard classification of the saturated wipe is based on the classification of the hazardous liquid. The classification of the hazardous liquid is not dependent on the media in which it exists: the hazard classification is the same whether the solution is in a cloth-like wipe or in a spray bottle. As such, the mass of the wipe is not considered as part of the hazard classification. The criteria for determining whether a chemical or product is classified as a health hazard are detailed in Appendix A of 29 CFR § 1910.1200 – Health Hazard Criteria (Mandatory).
Additional classification guidance may be found in the OSHA Guide on Hazard Classification Guidance for Manufacturers, Importers, and Employers (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3844.pdf). This guidance provides that the goal in the hazard classification process is to know and document the hazards of all covered chemicals manufactured or imported.
Question 2: If the wipe product is saturated with a flammable liquid and there is no free liquid, is the wipe classified as a flammable solid or is it classified as a flammable liquid?
Response: As explained above, the classification of the wipe saturated with a hazardous liquid is determined by the classification of the liquid. The HCS classifies a liquid as flammable if it has a flash point of not more than 93°C (199.4°F). See Appendix B of 29 CFR § 1910.1200, Physical Criteria, Chapter B.6, Flammable liquid. If the wipe is saturated with a flammable liquid, the wipe would be classified as a flammable liquid as well. This is the case even if there is no free liquid in the container.
Although DOT has a separate classification for solids containing flammable liquids, the transport classification is independent from the HCS classification and is not applicable.
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 https://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