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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1200(g)(4)

This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within the original correspondence.

June 3, 1999

Ms. Rosetta Sumter
2407 Birchwood Court
North Brunswick, New Jersey 08902

Dear Ms. Sumter:

Thank you for your January 8, 1999 letter, addressed to the Secretary of Labor, The Honorable Alexis Herman. Your letter was forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for response.

You raise concerns regarding the disclosure of hazardous ingredients on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from Bayway Refining Company. Specifically, you questioned whether OSHA allows generic terms such as "hydrotreated light distillate, petroleum" under the hazard-information section of the MSDS when percentages of individual components can be ascertained.

The Hazard Communication Standard (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 one material safety data sheet to apply to all of these similar mixtures" (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(4)). Therefore, while it may be possible for a manufacturer to conduct gas chromatography on each batch of fuel to determine its exact ingredients, there is no such requirement. Jet fuels are considered a complex mixture and the health effects of each batch would be similar, regardless of the specific composition. Our Compliance Directive, "Inspection Procedures for the
Hazard Communication Standard (CPL 02-02-038 [formerly CPL 2-2.38D]) further explains:
"Where the evidence supports similar health hazards for a class or family of chemicals, it is acceptable for the MSDS to report those findings with respect to the entire class or family. Thus, a "generic" MSDS may address a group of complex mixtures, such as crude oil, natural gas, or bricks, which have similar hazards and characteristics because their chemical ingredients are essentially the same even though the specific composition varies in each mixture."
[Editor's Note: The information regarding an OSHA complaint and inspection was removed because it did not provide information relevant to the interpretation. The removal of this information does not affect the interpretive value of the remaining information.]

[Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. In addition, 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.]


Charles Jeffress
Assistant Secretary

[Corrected 7/21/2004]

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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