Small Package Labels – Does OSHA allow reduced requirements?

Chemical manufacturers that distribute products in small containers continue to seek clarification from OSHA on how to comply with label requirements. To that end, OSHA has provided answers via a letter of interpretation

In this letter, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explains that it sells approximately 33,000 hazardous chemicals in small containers, ranging in size from 5 milliliter (mL) vials to 50 mL bottles. NIST states that the significant challenge is to provide all the required information (e.g. (1) a product identifier; (2) signal word; (3) hazard statement(s); (4) pictogram(s); (5) precautionary statement(s); and (6) the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible party) on these containers.

In several questions, NIST asked OSHA about using a substitute numbering system to link each individual vial or bottle to an accompanying sheet containing all the label elements, or using DOT small quantity exemption, or optionally applying an EU CLP container exception and finally if these options didn’t comply, just labeling the outer box containing the smaller vials. OSHA answered that none of these options allow for full compliance with the Hazard Communication Standard.

The full OSHA response included the following:

Ampoules/bottles of the hazardous chemical must be labeled with the hazard information required by HCS 2012. While paragraph 1910.1200(c) defines a label as “an appropriate group of written, printed or graphic information elements concerning a hazardous chemical that is affixed to, printed on, or attached to the immediate container of a hazardous chemical, or to the outside packaging,” this is merely the definition of what a label is; it was not intended to allow for the labeling of the outside packaging only. OSHA’s position is that labels must be attached to a hazardous chemical’s immediate container. Therefore, a manufacturer, importer, or distributor may not attach an HCS 2012 label only to the outside packaging of a shipped hazardous chemical.

OSHA understands your concern that HCS 2012 labels contain more information, which may be difficult to include on small shipped containers. As such, labeling can be done with pull-out labels, fold back labels, tags or other methods. While pull-out labels, fold back labels, tags or other methods to attach the label to the shipped container may cost more than traditional glued on labels, an increase in cost is an unacceptable reason to avoid use of these labeling methods.

As a practical accommodation, where the manufacturer can show that it is not feasible to use pull-out labels, fold back labels, or tags, containing the full HCS 2012 required information, the shipped small container (i.e., the actual container holding the hazardous chemical), at a minimum, must contain the following:

  • Product identifier
  • Appropriate pictograms
  • Manufacturer’s name and phone number
  • Signal word
  • A statement indicating the full label information for the chemical is provided on the outside package.

Additionally, the outside packaging, at a minimum, must comply with the following:

  • All the applicable label elements, as defined in 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1).
  • The outside package must be clearly marked to ensure the complete label elements are visible and it must clearly inform users that the small container must be stored in the outer container bearing the complete label. The complete label must be maintained on the outer package (e.g., not torn, defaced, destroyed).
  • The manufacturer must ensure that any alternative labeling used does not conflict with any other standards. As such, the outside packaging must not present a hazard while the material is being stored.

OSHA Campaigns for Safety & Health

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a set of Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to help employers establish a methodical approach to improving safety and health in their workplaces.

The recommendations update OSHA’s 1989 guidelines to reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. The recommendations feature a new, easier-to-use format and should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses. Also new is a section on multi-employer workplaces and a greater emphasis on continuous improvement. Supporting tools and resources are included.

According to OSHA more than 4 million workers suffer serious job-related injuries or illnesses. These incidents don’t just hurt workers and their families, but can hurt businesses in a variety of ways. Companies spend $1 billion per week on workers’ compensation, which is money that could be better invested in growing small businesses and creating jobs.

Businesses today want to be sustainable, and part of that means taking care of workers so they can help sustain and grow the business. By identifying and controlling the job-related hazards that can lead to injuries and illnesses, safety and health programs improve small- and medium-sized businesses’ safety and health performance, save money, and improve competitiveness.

The safety and health program approach has been proven by “best in class” employers that have reduced injuries and illnesses and improved their businesses. While there are different approaches, all effective safety and health programs have three core elements:

  • Management leadership. Top management commits to establishing, maintaining, and continually improving the program, and provides any necessary resources.
  • Worker participation. Effective programs involve workers in identifying solutions. Improved worker engagement is linked to better productivity, higher job satisfaction, and better worker retention.
  • A systematic find and fix approach. All effective programs are centered around a proactive process of finding and fixing hazards before they can cause injury or illness.

To learn more about how to integrate this approach in your workplace, visit the OSHA website

What is a Competent Person (OSHA defined)?

From the National Safety Council

When a boss calls an employee a “competent person,” it is not necessarily a compliment – it is a legal obligation.

A competent person is an employee who is able to recognize hazards associated with a particular task, and has the ability to mitigate those hazards. Many OSHA construction standards require someone onsite – such as a foreman, supervisor or other employee – to be designated as a competent person.

However, OSHA does not have a specific standard regarding a competent person, which has led to some confusion.  Read the article here

Potentially Toxic Magnetic Nanoparticles found in Human Brains

From Newsweek

Researchers have discovered significant quantities of potentially toxic magnetic nanoparticles in human brains, sparking fears they could lead to brain diseases.

The particles, made of a form of iron called magnetite, are produced during combustion and can reach high levels in polluted areas. A study published Sep. 5 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests these pollutants can make their way into the brain when inhaled, either through the lungs or more likely directly through the olfactory bulb, where smell is processed.

In the paper, scientists examined the brains of people who lived in Mexico City and Manchester, England, and who were subject to high levels of particulate pollution during their lives. Some of the people also had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and researchers are concerned these particles may increase the risk for such brain diseases, says Barbara Maher, a scientist at the University of Lancaster, and the study’s first author.

PHMSA to align US Hazmat Rules to International Standards

On August 24, 2016, the PHMSA issued the following brief:

Today, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is seeking comment on proposed revisions to the U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations to maintain alignment with international standards. The changes – which include revisions to proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements – facilitate the safe transport of hazardous materials in international commerce. The proposed rule is based on recent revisions to the United Nations Model Regulations, International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air. The U.N. Model Regulations are amended and updated biennially. Comments must be received on or before 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The proposed rulemaking has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but a preview of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA is available on the agency’s website. For more information on the U.S. DOT’s efforts to improve hazardous materials safety and awareness, including details about the proposed rule, visit the PHMSA website at Contact for media: Artealia Gilliard (202)366-4831.

Today, the Federal Register has been published and can be found here

OSHA and Health Canada plan alignment of label/classification

OSHA, Health Canada update plan to align labelling and classification requirements for hazardous workplace chemicals

WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Health Canada, through the Regulatory Cooperation Council, have jointly developed a 2016-2017 Workplace Chemicals Work Plan. The purpose of the work plan is to ensure that current and future requirements for classifying and communicating the hazards of workplace chemicals will be acceptable in the United States and Canada without reducing worker safety.

The work plan involves activities that support:

  • Developing materials to assist stakeholders with implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS) and understanding the interpretation of technical issues and requirements in Canada and the U.S.;
  • Coordinating opinions on issues that arise from international discussions on the GHS; and
  • Maintaining alignment between the U.S. and Canadian requirements for implementing the GHS when revisions are made.

“This plan is part of ongoing efforts between OSHA and Health Canada to reduce regulatory barriers between U.S. and Canadian systems responsible for chemical safety and provide concise information to protect workers exposed to hazardous chemicals,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

OSHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Canada’s Department of Health in 2013. The goal of the MOU is to devise a system, accepted by both countries, that allows the use of one label and one safety data sheet.

OSHA aligned its Hazard Communication Standard with the GHS in March 2012 to provide a common, understandable approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Web page includes links to the standard, frequently asked questions and guidance materials.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Learn About OSHA Hazcom 2012 Inspections

OSHA presented an overview of its Compliance Directive covering Inspection procedures for Hazcom 2012 in September 2015.

The free event is archived and available here

ECHA gives tips on EU CLP


The EU Chemical Agency has recently issued a guide for chemical users on the practical use of the CLP requirements. A typical excerpt from the guide:2016-08-09_15-45-45

OSHA issues final Silica Rule


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.

OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system.

Key Provisions

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

Compliance Schedule

Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016., after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:

Construction – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.

General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.

Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.

OSHA Responds to HCS Questions

From AG Professional

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently responded to a letter sent by the Agricultural Retailers Association regarding the implementation of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of 2012.

In June 2015, ARA, TFI, and RISE wrote to OSHA seeking clarification on how HCS will be applied to the industry’s use of “custom blends.” Specifically, the letter asked if custom blending is considered chemical manufacturing, and thus requires labeling and safety data sheets under HCS 2012.

The letter also asks if agricultural retailers are required to prepare new SDSs for each custom fertilizer blend, can the agricultural retailer use a single generic SDS for multiple blends; and if a generic SDS is not compliant with HCS 2012, what does OSHA recommend as guidance to accommodate custom blending operations?

OSHA’s response provided answers to all three questions:

  1. Custom blending is considered chemical manufacturing, and does require individual labels and SDSs.
  2. A single generic SDS is allowed for complex mixtures with similar hazards. However, the concentration ranges used on a generic SDS must meet the intent to disclose the actual concentration range.
  3. OSHA also gave guidance that it believes including an HCS pictogram on a tanker or rail car is not in conflict with the Department of Transportation regulations.