US Dept of Labor

Occupational Safety & Health AdministrationWe Can Help

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1200

February 2, 1994

Mr. Michael Strong
Industrial Hygienist
Wacker Silicones Corporation
Adrian, Michigan 49221-9397

Dear Mr. Strong:

This is a response to your letter of October 5, concerning the requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200, for labeling provisions.

You asked two questions that were a follow up to your July 30 letter. Reinterated below are your submitted questions with answers in the order that they were presented in your letter.

1. Must label warning language match the MSDS warning language exactly word-for-word? In other words, if an MSDS uses a statement such as "causes iris atrophy", can the label say "causes eye damage"?

The label warning language does not need to match the language on the MSDS word for word nor does it need to address every hazard listed on the MSDS. Sections (f) and (g) of the HCS address container labeling and MSDS respectively. There is no requirement for a word for word translation between the label and MSDS. The purpose of a label is to provide an immediate warning to employees of the hazards they may be exposed to and through the chemical identity, labels provide a link to more detailed information available through material safety data sheets and other sources.

OSHA's compliance directive Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard, (CPL 2-2.38C) discusses the issue of appropriate hazard warning. The directive states that:

"It will not necessarily be appropriate to warn on the label about every hazard listed in the MSDSs. The data sheet is to address essentially everything that is known about the chemical. The selection of hazards to be highlighted on the label will involve some assessment of the weight of the evidence regarding each hazard reported on the data sheet. Assessing the weight of the evidence prior to including a hazard on a label will also necessarily mean consideration of exposures to the chemical that will occur to workers under normal conditions of use, or in foreseeable emergencies. However, this does not mean that only acute hazards are to be covered on the label, or that well substantiated hazards can be left off the label because they appear on the data sheet." In your words then, label warning language must contain the appropriate warnings but the language used in those warnings does not have to be identical to the language used in the MSDS.

2. Can medical test results and technically descriptive terms be translated into common language for use on the label, or should we use "64 dollar" words which may make sense only to a Harvard physician/researcher or their lawyer?

For example, which two of the following four choices are more appropriate hazard warnings? A. Causes vasomoter rhinitis B. Causes nasal irritation C. Causes symptomatic ventricular arrhythmias D. Causes irregular heart beat which may be fatal if not controlled.

The HCS is a performance oriented standard that gives employers the flexibility to adapt the rule to the needs of the workplace situation, instead of having to follow specific rigid requirements. The key issue is that employees find the label meaningful. If you were to use the more technical choices in your example (choices A and C), then the employee training program would have to define these specific terms. Section (h) of the HCS requires that employees be trained on the physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the work area including information on target organ effect. Common sense supports the presentation of hazard information on the label in a straightforward manner, which would be choices B and D. This approach would communicate the essential information to employees in a more widely comprehensible manner.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please contact us at (202) 219-8036.

Sincerely,



Ruth McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance




October 5, 1993

Ruth McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue N.W. Rm. N 3468
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Ms. McCully:

Thank you for your response (drafted by Mr. Thomas Galassi) to my questions on the Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200 for labeling provisions.

There are still two points on which I desire clarification, which were in my original letter, but which were not directly answered in your reply.

1. Must label warning language match the MSDS warning language exactly word-for-word? In other words, if an MSDS uses a statement such as "causes iris atrophy", can the label say "causes eye damage"?

I am looking for a statement from your office that tells me either:

Label warning language must match exactly the MSDS warning language.

or

Label warning language must contain the appropriate warnings but the language used in those warnings does not have to be identical to the language used in the MSDS.

2. Can medical test results and technically descriptive terms be translated into common language for use on the label, or should we use "64 dollar" words which may make sense only to a Harvard physician/researcher or their lawyer?

For example, which two of the following four choices are more appropriate hazard warnings?

A. Causes vasomotor rhinitis
B. Causes nasal irritation
C. Causes symptomatic ventricular arrhythmias
D. Causes irregular heart beat which may be fatal if not controlled.

I believe that B and D are more appropriate warnings for labels.

I would like guidance from your office that the warning language used on the label should be directed to the average worker and not to a clinician, that common language is acceptable as long as the warning is adequate. I believe that putting the warnings in understandable terms strengthens the label warnings while use of overly technical terminology weakens these warnings.

Please provide general written guidance addressing these two issues specific to proper interpretation of the standard.

Sincerely,

WACKER SILICONES CORPORATION



Michael C. Strong
Industrial Hygienist


Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

Thank You for Visiting Our Website

You are exiting the Department of Labor's Web server.

The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the linked organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy or accessibility of the information contained on the destination server. The Department of Labor also cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked Web sites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked Web site. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click the button below to continue.

Close