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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1200

September 8, 2004

Mr. Michael Beckel
Supervisor of Onsite Services
3E Company
1905 Aston Avenue
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Dear Mr. Beckel:

This is in response to your correspondence dated April 26, 2004 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. In your letter you requested an interpretation regarding material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and labeling requirements under OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. Specifically, you asked about the responsibilities of the product manufacturer and the downstream user (employer).

In your letter you referenced two interpretations written by OSHA. These two interpretations apparently conflict, however, they are related to separate issues covered by the HCS.

The first letter to Mr. Michael C. Strong, dated October 6, 1995, addresses questions regarding the responsibilities of the downstream employer with respect to the retention of multiple MSDSs from different manufacturers for the same chemical formulation. That letter has been archived and replaced by a letter written to Mr. James J. Balsamo, Jr. and dated February 1, 1994, which contains more complete information.

The second letter of interpretation you reference is a letter to Mr. Mike Lopez, dated July 15, 1996 that clarifies the chemical manufacturer's responsibilities associated with the presentation of consistent information between the labels and MSDSs. These interpretations will be addressed separately as they refer to the responsibility of two different parties (the employer and the manufacturer) under the HCS.

Regarding the employer's responsibility, the employer may rely on a single MSDS to convey the hazard information for chemical products of the same formulation supplied by different manufacturers. If the employer chooses to do this, they become responsible for ensuring that the conditions are met as described in the letter of interpretation to Mr. James J. Balsamo, Jr. The applicable portion of the letter states that, "First, [the employer] must ensure that the specific identity on the MSDS can be cross referenced to the corresponding label of the hazardous chemical containers. Second, the employer must ensure that employees are informed during the hazard communication training of this practice of using one MSDS as representative of all vendors, otherwise it could lead to confusion. Third, the MSDS [the employer] select[s] must have complete and accurate information as required by section (g)(3) of the HCS. And finally, the standard requires that the MSDS contain the name, address and telephone number of the party who prepares or distributes the MSDS. The party listed must be able to provide additional information on the hazardous chemicals or clarification of the information on the MSDS, as well as, additional emergency procedures, if necessary, in lieu of the actual manufacturer. A chemical manufacturer, importer or distributor may not wish to and is not required to act as the responsible party for a chemical that they did not produce." Basically, the standard allows substitution of one MSDS for others of similar formulations, but the employer then assumes an increased level of responsibility as discussed herein.

The second letter to which you refer (to Mr. Mike Lopez) answers questions related to the responsibilities of the manufacturer or distributor regarding the consistency of information between the MSDS and the container label. The HCS explicitly requires that the product name on the container label match the product name on the MSDS. The specific standard language follows: "each MSDS shall contain at least the following information: the identity used on the label" [reference 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(2)(i)], "and the name, address and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, employer or other responsible party preparing or distributing the material safety data sheet..." [reference 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(2)(xii)]. It is the chemical manufacturer's/distributor's responsibility to ensure that the MSDS information sent "downstream" to users matches that which is on the container label.

In conclusion, the two letters of interpretation to which you referred are not in conflict, as they each address a different "responsible party" under the HCS, the first being the employer and the second being the manufacturer.

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. 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. The letters and standard references listed in this response can be located (in their entirety) on OSHA's website. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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