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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1200; 1910.1200(f)(11); 1910.1200(g)(5)

November 17, 2011

Mr. John O. Snyder
Executive Director
Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC)
801 N. Quincy Street, Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22203-1730

Dear Mr. Snyder:

Thank you for your July 20, 2011, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been referred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for an answer to your questions about styrene being listed on the National Toxicology Program's (NTP) 12th Report on Carcinogens, and requirements to label chemical containers under OSHA's Hazard Communication standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200. In addition, a meeting was held with members of your association regarding this issue on August 25, 2011. 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. Your paraphrased question and our response are below.

Question: In the 12th Report on Carcinogens, styrene has been listed as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." We take issue with this listing, and we believe that when OSHA promulgates its new Hazard Communication standard to align with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), the requirement for manufacturers to list styrene as a carcinogen on chemical product labels will be removed because of the new standard's weight-of-evidence approach. Until OSHA issues its new Hazard Communication standard, will OSHA start enforcing the requirement to list styrene as a carcinogen on the label? If so, and manufacturers choose to classify styrene in accordance to the proposed Hazard Communication standard, would this constitute a de minimis condition?

Response: As you are aware, per OSHA's enforcement policy to its field staff, CPL 02-02-038, Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard, March 20, 1998, the agency has maintained a stay of enforcement for the Hazard Communication standard's paragraph, 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(11), requiring updated labeling on chemical products. This means that OSHA has withheld enforcement on all manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers that have not updated their chemical product labels within three months of becoming aware of new hazard information about the chemicals, such as a new listing in the NTP's Report on Carcinogens.

OSHA's stay of enforcement on labels continues to remain in effect, and since OSHA will not issue citations where violations of this provision are found, the agency's de minimis policy is not applicable. However, the agency's self-imposed stay of enforcement does not in any way eliminate the current standard's requirement to update labels within three months under paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(11). To ensure that a citation is not received for violating this provision in the event that OSHA ends its stay of enforcement, we recommend manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers comply with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(11).

Additionally, manufacturers, importers, or employers preparing material safety data sheets (MSDSs) are also required under 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(5) to update MSDSs within three months of becoming aware of new hazard information about the chemical, such as a new listing by the NTP. OSHA has never stayed its enforcement of this provision, and we will continue to enforce where violations are found.

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 www.osha.gov.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

cc:  Lawrence P. Halprin, Esq.
     Keller and Heckman LLP
     1001 G Street, NW, Suite 500W
     Washington, DC 20001

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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