Friday, January 13, 2012

Hazcom Standard Clarification

(1) Can chemical manufacturers who sell their products, in part, through company-owned and operated retail and wholesale outlets avail themselves of the provisions in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) permitting the distribution of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on request to walk-up retail customers?

(2) Can chemical manufacturers who operate as wholesale distributors serving industrial and construction trades people, as described in subparagraphs (v) and (vi), and who also own and operate "commercial" stores, take the same position (i.e., distribute MSDS directly upon request)? Commercial stores may serve walk-up trade; consumers as well as businesses may purchase products at such outlets.

Standard Interpretation

For hazard communication purposes, the standard allows a business entity functioning as the chemical manufacturer to meet the standard's requirements as the chemical manufacturer, and also when distributing the product in a retail store, as the retail distributor, meet the standard's requirements for retail distributors. A retail distributor is one that primarily sells to the general public for personal or household use. The intent of the provision, (g)(7)(iii), was to reduce the burden on retail distributors because they typically do not sell to commercial customers.

We must disagree with your statement "...it is also acceptable, with respect to products manufactured by another manufacturer, for these retail distributors to refer persons requesting an MSDS to the other manufacturer." When an employer with a commercial account at a retail distributor requests an MSDS, the MSDS must be provided with the purchase by the retail distributor. In this case, the retail distributor cannot refer the customer to the chemical manufacturer for the MSDS. The HCS (1910.1200(g)(7)(v)) does allow a retail distributor, who does not have commercial accounts, to refer the employer to the chemical manufacturer, importer, or distributor for the sheet.

OSHA also allows wholesale distributors to provide an MSDS on request in over-the-counter sales operations as described under paragraph (g)(7)(iv) of the standard. This provision is for over-the-counter type operations only. As stated in the preamble to the final rule (59 FR 6162), "wholesale distributors that have over-the-counter sales should be permitted to provide MSDSs on request as their operations are similar to those of concern in retail establishments." Consequently, the commercial stores (wholesale distributors) mentioned in your letter could choose the alternative compliance strategy in 1910.1200(g)(7)(iv).

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