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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1200(g)(6) ; 1910.1200(g)(7) ; 1910.1200(g)(8)

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.


February 20, 1997

Kevin Johnson, CIH, CSP
Corporate EH&S Manager
Chiron Diagnostics Corporation
63 North Street
Medfield, Massachusetts 02052-1688

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Thank you for your letter of January 6, regarding manufacturers' use of the Internet for distribution of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) to downstream users.

The system you described appears to fulfill a manufacturer's responsibility for providing downstream users with MSDSs. As stated in your letter, Chiron Diagnostics will follow the steps outlined below:


  1. Create a web site with a simple-to-use MSDS section that would contain all Chiron Diagnostics MSDSs.

  2. Mail a letter to your customers giving the Internet address of the MSDSs as well assuring the most current MSDS is always there.

  3. Maintain the Internet MSDSs by your site documentation control groups thereby assuring the most current MSDS is always there.

  4. Ask customers during an order entry, whether or not they have Internet capability and, if so, if they find it acceptable to receive MSDSs through the Internet. A "yes" would prompt your Customer Service Representative to state the Internet address, a "no" would prompt your Customer Service Representative to mail or FAX and MSDS to the customer. Either response is documented by checking a "yes" or "no" box on the order entry forms.
In addition to these steps, you stated that Chiron is designing a view showing the MSDS revision dates so that the customer can determine at a glance if they have the most current MSDS.

While these steps meet the manufacturer's overall requirements for the downstream flow of information, manufacturers who choose to use this type of system must be aware of and ensure provisions for the following:


  1. In the event of a system failure, a backup system should be available. For instance, if Internet access is unavailable, due to a large volume of use, the downstream user must have another means for receiving the required information quickly.

  2. In the event of a significant change to the health hazard information on the MSDS, the manufacturer is responsible to ensure that downstream users are aware that the updated MSDS is available. OSHA does not consider posting a revision date on a viewing screen as adequately informing downstream users of significant changes to the health hazard information on the MSDS. Some positive means of contact, such as a letter or an E-Mail notification, stating that the MSDS has been changed and that the updated MSDS is available would be required.
Under the system of electronic access, both the manufacturer and the employer have responsibility for ensuring that there are no barriers to employee access to the MSDSs. While the system you described appears to meet the manufacturer's requirements for providing MSDS information to the employer, the employer also has responsibilities under this system to ensure that employees are adequately trained to access the site on the Internet and that the system is readily accessible for their use.

Systems such as the one you described are often promoted as being a "paperless" system. OSHA would caution the downstream users, however, that they may want to maintain paper copies as a back up in case of system failure or an inability to readily access the data.

We hope that this information is useful. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact your nearest OSHA Office at:
[USDOL, OSHA, South Boston Area Office
639 Granite Street, 4th Floor
Braintree, Massachusetts 02184
Phone: (617) 565-6924
Fax: (617) 565-6923]
or you may contact [the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].

Sincerely,


Stephen Mallinger, Acting Director
[Office of Health Enforcement]

[Corrected 10/22/2004]


January 6, 1997

Ms. Ruth McCully (Certified Mail P 855 184 947)
Director, Office of Health Compliance Assistance
U. S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue NW Room N 3467
Washington, DC 20210

Re: Electronic Distribution of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)

Dear Ms. McCully,

Recently, I spoke with Mr. Fred Mallaby from Region 1 OSHA and Ms. Maureen O'Donnell and Mr. Tom Galassi of the Office of Health Compliance Assistance regarding the implications of the recent NACOSH Report to OSHA on Hazard Communication. Upon Ms. O'Donnell's recommendation, I am submitting this letter to you to:

1) Give you some background information about my discussions with Ms. O'Donnell, Mr. Galassi and Mr. Fred Mallaby, and 2) To request OSHA's reply to my questions regarding our plans to use the Internet for MSDS distribution.

Background: In the past year, Chiron Diagnostics has been pursuing ways in which to use electronic vehicles to distribute MSDSs instead of the traditional, paper intensive methods. In the process of gathering information, I contacted Mr. Fred Mallaby at Region 1 OSHA in October 1996 to gather ideas from OSHA. At that time, Mr. Mallaby stated to me that OSHA would now find it acceptable for companies to use the Internet for distributing MSDSs to customers as a result of a recent NACOSH report to OSHA on Hazard Communication. Mr. Mallaby gave me some initial information stating that companies could now post and maintain current their MSDSs on their Internet site mail a letter to their customers giving them the Internet address and explaining the alternative means for getting MSDSs should they not have Internet access. Mr. Mallaby stated that this scenario would meet the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard that requires manufacturers to supply MSDSs to their customers with the initial shipment and upon revision.

In addition to my conversation with Mr. Mallaby, I ordered and read a copy of the NACOSH report and decided to contact Mr. Galassi for his interpretation of the report. At that time, Mr. Galassi explained that in addition to a letter to our customers explaining the location of the Internet site and the alternative means for receiving MSDSs, that we would have to get our customers' acceptance for receiving MSDSs through the Internet. Mr. Galassi and I discussed what would be considered acceptance and he stated that he would view acceptance as having our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) ask the question (as a documented part of their script) of customers during the ordering process and have the CSR check a Yes or No box on the order forms. A Yes would prompt our CSR to state the location of the Internet site; a No would prompt our CSR to forward an MSDS fulfillment request to our literature department for mailing or FAXing the MSDSs to the customer.

Based on Mr. Mallaby's and Mr. Galassi's information, we began moving forward with an MSDS addition to our Internet site. In the process, I called Ms. O'Donnell to get any OSHA quips, guidance documents or the like to support the information Mr. Mallaby and Mr. Galassi stated to me. Ms. O'Donnell replied that since the NACOSH report is new and the concept of electronic distribution is also as new, that OSHA did not have any of the aforementioned documents. Therefore, Ms. O'Donnell recommended that I submit this letter to you.

Questions: We are proposing the following for using the Internet to meet compliance with the Hazard Communication Standard's requirements to distribute MSDSs with initial orders and upon revision. Are you in agreement with Mr. Galassi and Mr. Mallaby that this scenario meets those requirements?


  1. Create a web site with a simple to use MSDS section that would contain all Chiron Diagnostics MSDSs.

  2. Mail a letter to our customers giving the Internet address of the MSDSs as well as the phone number to request MSDSs.

  3. The Internet MSDSs would be maintained by our site documentation control groups thereby assuring the most current MSDS is always there.

  4. During order entry, our CSRs would ask our customers whether or not they have Internet capability and, if so, if they find it acceptable to receive MSDSs through the Internet. A YES prompts the CSR to state the Internet address, a NO prompts the CSR to forward an MSDS order to be mailed or FAXed to the customer. Either response is documented by checking a YES or NO box on the order entry form.
Additional Benefits of the Internet Approach: While not mandatory, we are also designing into our MSDS site the following capabilities which will increase the benefits of using the electronic MSDSs:

  1. We are programming in search capabilities that will allow our customers to call-up MSDSs by product name, product part number, CAS number, chemical name, manufacturing location, as well as some others. The benefits of electronic searching are extensive but, most importantly, the speed and completeness of searching for specific MSDSs or MSDS information will be greatly increased.

  2. For customer ease, we are also designing a view showing the MSDS revision dates so that the customer can determine at a glance if he/she has the most current revision.
Thank you for your attention to our questions. As soon as you can, please send a response to me at above address. In the mean time, if you have any questions, please call me at (508) 359-3893.

Sincerely,

Kevin S. Johnson, CIH, CSP
Corporate EH&S Manager



Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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