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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.
August 13, 2021
Ms. Julie Ann Dawson
5000 Lincoln Drive E
Marlton, NJ 08053
Dear Ms. Dawson:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was forwarded to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for a response. Your letter requested clarification regarding the use of generic safety data sheets (SDSs) for products under 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 question not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and our response are below.
Background: Company employees work with packaged consumer commodities (e.g., body wash, sunscreen, mouthwash, dish detergent, fabric softener) that are placed in finished store displays. The products are not used by employees and are shipped back to the original manufacturer for distribution, or to distribution centers for resale. SDSs are maintained for shipping and/or disposal of the product.
Question: Is the company required to maintain an SDS for each variant of a consumer commodity or is it acceptable to maintain one SDS that represents all variants where the core formula and information is the same?
Response: It is permissible to maintain a single SDS that represents all consumer product variants provided they pose the same hazard. The HCS states that where “complex mixtures have similar hazards and contents (i.e., the chemical ingredients are essentially the same, but the specific composition varies from mixture to mixture), the chemical manufacturer, importer, or employer may prepare a single SDS to apply to all of these similar mixtures.” See 29 CFR § 1910.1200(g)(4). This singular SDS must meet all of the minimum requirements found in 29 CFR § 1910.1200(g), including the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible party preparing or distributing the SDS who can provide additional information.
Please note, however, that the HCS exempts consumer products and hazardous substances as those terms are defined in the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2051 et seq.) and Federal Hazardous Substances Act (15 U.S.C. 1261 et seq.) respectively, where the employer can show that it is used in the workplace for the purpose intended by the chemical manufacturer or importer of the product, and the use results in a duration and frequency of exposure which is not greater than the range of exposures that could reasonably be experienced by consumers when used for the purpose intended. See 29 CFR § 1910.1200(b)(6)(ix). Based on the description provided in your letter, it appears that employees do not use the consumer products, and therefore these products would not be subject to any HCS requirements while in the workplace. The consumer products would remain subject to the HCS during shipping and disposal. Information about the requirements of the HCS can be found on OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page including the OSHA HCS compliance directive, CPL 02-02-079, Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012), at: https://www.osha.gov/hazcom.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. I hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. 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.
Kimberly Stille, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs