October 6, 2009
Mr. Benjamin Garth Studebaker, CSP
Videojet Technologies, Inc.
1500 Mittel Boulevard
Wood Dale, IL 60191-1073
Dear Mr. Studebaker:
Thank you for your April 20, 2009, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You had specific questions regarding the use of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of only the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased scenario and questions are below, followed by our responses.
Scenario: Your company manufactures various ink products for industrial inkjet printers and some of these ink products are considered hazardous within the context of:
- OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200;
- Canada Hazardous Products Act;
- European Union (EU) Regulation EC/1272/2008 (EU GHS);
- United Nations (UN) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (UN GHS).
Question 1: Would you consider an EU GHS label sufficient to meet the spirit and intent of OSHA's current HCS?
Reply 1: A qualified yes, as long as the label complies with the provisions of the HCS as discussed herein. The HCS was promulgated to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced in or imported into the U.S. are evaluated and that information concerning their hazards is transmitted to employers and employees. The transmittal of information is to be accomplished by means of comprehensive hazard communication programs which include container labeling and other forms of warning covered under 29 CFR 1910.1200(f).
The HCS requires that labels contain the identity of the chemical; appropriate hazard warnings; and the name and addresses for the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party [29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1)]. The identity of a chemical is the chemical name or common name that is also used on the material safety data sheet (MSDS), and a hazard warning means words, pictures, symbols, or a combination thereof which conveys the specific physical and health hazards, including the target organ effects [29 CFR 1010.1200(c)]. Manufacturers, importers, and distributors must ensure that containers of hazardous chemicals leaving their facilities have labels which contain these elements.
Classification schemes in the EU and other countries may be different from those in OSHA's HCS. These classification schemes may affect the information provided on both the safety data sheet and the label. However, as long as the EU GHS label contains the information required by the HCS, OSHA will consider the EU GHS label sufficient.
OSHA is proposing to amend the HCS to incorporate the GHS. If these changes are ultimately adopted, then EU GHS labels should generally meet the requirements of the HCS.
Question 2: Would you take enforcement action under your current regulations against manufacturers, importers or distributors that market products that have been appropriately labeled according to EU GHS requirements?
Reply 2: OSHA would not issue any citations so long as the chemical label and other forms of warning include the information required by OSHA's HCS, as discussed above.
Question 3: Would you take enforcement action under your current regulations against employers or users of a product that has been appropriately labeled according to EU GHS requirements?
Reply 3: Employers obligations under the HCS are distinct from those of manufacturers, importers, or distributors. According to the Hazard Communication Directive, CPL 02-02-038, Paragraph (E)(1)(d)(1), available on OSHA's website: "Employers are not to be held responsible for inaccurate information on the MSDS/label which they did not prepare and they have accepted in good faith from the chemical manufacturer, importer, or distributor. The "responsible party" named on the MSDS and the label would be held responsible for the accuracy of the information and potentially subject to citation if a violation of the HCS was determined to exist."
Manufacturers, importers and distributors of hazardous chemicals are required to determine the hazards of the chemical(s) they produce or import and provide that information downstream to employers and employees through MSDSs and labels that comply with 29 CFR 1910.1200.
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. 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