Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was established “…to assure as far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources…” The act is administered and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It imposes upon employers the obligation to provide employees with workplaces that are free from recognized health and safety hazards, and to maintain compliance with specific OSHA standards. EPA has authority under FIFRA relating to the safety of farmworkers in fields treated with pesticides, and OSHA has authority over manufacturing, formulating, and distribution operations involving worker safety in the pesticide industry.

Note that many states and territories have their own state plans that have been approved by OSHA and are in effect. These state regulations may be more stringent than the federal OSHA requirements.

Hazard Communication Standard

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR Section 1910.1200) ensures that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are evaluated and that information concerning their hazards is transmitted to employers and employees. This so-called “Right-to-Know” law requires employers with employees exposed to hazardous chemicals to provide information to their employees on the hazards by means of hazard communication programs including labels, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), training, and access to written records.

Chemical manufacturers (including formulators) and importers are required to assess the hazards of chemicals produced or imported via a “hazard determination.” Chemicals including elements, chemical compounds, and mixtures (e.g., formulations) may be hazardous because of their physical properties — for example, combustible liquids, compressed gases, explosives, flammables, organic peroxides, oxidizers, pyrophorics, unstable materials, or water reactives. They may also be hazardous based upon health hazards, either immediate (acute) or delayed (chronic). Some of these acute and chronic health effects might result from exposure to chemicals which are carcinogens (cancer causing), toxic or highly toxic agents, corrosives, sensitizers, reproductive toxins, etc. as referenced in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to prepare MSDSs for all hazardous chemicals which they produce, and to label containers of hazardous chemicals they ship. Manufacturers, importers, and distributors must pass MSDSs on to their customers with the initial shipment.

Manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the physical and chemical hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, but not necessarily to test these chemicals. HCS defines the methodology for performing hazard determinations on compounds and mixtures. The hazard determination can be based upon the manufacturer’s own data or upon available scientific literature. A non-tested mixture must be considered to have the same health hazards as those hazardous components present in excess of 1% by weight or, for carcinogens, present in excess of 0.1%. If a component present in a mixture can be released in a concentration exceeding its Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) or its Threshold Limit Value (TLV) or at any level that could endanger the health of employees, it must be identified on the MSDS and label.

An OSHA rule issued in March 1989 reduced the PELs for many substances and set new PELs for many others not previously regulated by OSHA. Short Term Exposure Limits (STEL) complement eight-hour Time Weighted Averages (TWA), and, where appropriate, skin designations and/or ceiling limits are given. The new standard appears in 29 CFR Section 1910.1000 as Tables Z-1-A, Z-2, and Z-3. Currently, the PELs are under revision after being contested in court. State OSHA programs may choose to enforce the revised standards until a final revision has been made.

The following sources must be checked by chemical importers or manufacturers to establish whether their chemicals are hazardous:

  1. 29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z, Toxic and Hazardous Substances.
  2. Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents in the Work Environment (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, latest edition).

For establishing carcinogenicity or potential carcinogenicity, the following sources must be reviewed:

  1. National Toxicology Program, Annual Report on Carcinogens (latest edition).
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs (latest edition).
  3. 29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z, Toxic and Hazardous Substances.

Once a material is determined to be hazardous, there is specific information that is required to be on the MSDS.

Under the Hazard Communication Standard, all containers of hazardous chemicals in, or leaving, the workplace (unless the container is used for temporary transfer purposes) must be labeled, tagged, or marked with appropriate hazard warnings and with an identity permitting it to be cross-referenced to the MSDS. All employers must assure that employees are adequately trained relative to the hazardous chemicals, in detection and protection methods, and in the labeling and MSDS system used in their workplace.
It is important to realize that HCS does not apply to labeling of pesticides covered under FIFRA. Inert ingredients and intermediates which are not pesticides under FIFRA are covered. Drugs and veterinary devices whose labeling is covered by FDA are also exempt from OSHA labeling, as are consumer products labeled under requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, none of these products or chemicals is exempt from the OSHA MSDS requirement. Hazardous wastes as defined in 40 CFR 261 are exempt from all of the OSHA requirements.

The EPA issued final rules on Aug. 21, 1992, for occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides (40 CFR 156 and 170). Part 156 covers labeling requirements for pesticides and devices. Part 170 is a worker protection standard. Amended labeling must be accomplished by April 21, 1994.

On Jan. 31, 1990 OSHA issued a final rule (55 FR 3300) effective on May 1, 1990 which applies to the use of hazardous chemicals in laboratories. The final standard provides for employee training and information, medical consultation and examinations, hazard identification, respirator use, and recordkeeping. Specifically the standard requires that laboratories maintain employee exposure at or below the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) specified in 29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z. Each employer has the obligation to formulate a written Chemical Hygiene Plan which includes the necessary work practices, procedures, and policies to ensure that employees are protected from all potentially hazardous chemicals in the laboratory workplace.

The standard maintains the OSHA HCS requirement for retention of labels and MSDSs accompanying incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals but does not require label and MSDS development for chemical substances produced in a laboratory for a laboratory’s own exclusive use. OSHA does require that available hazard information be provided to employees who may be exposed to a hazardous substance. Chemical by-products whose composition is unknown must be treated as if hazardous by employers, and handled according to the CHP. When a chemical is produced in a laboratory and shipped to another user outside the laboratory, the producing laboratory becomes a manufacturer and is subject to all relevant provisions of the HCS. For the pesticide industry this would include preparation of labels for nonregistered pesticides, and preparation and dissemination of MSDS for all experimental chemicals or formulations.

MSDS Requirements

On June 3, 1993, the American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI) issued a new standard for Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) preparation. The new standard is intended to help preparers of MSDSs to continue developing consistent, understandable MSDSs that provide useful information to the general public.

The new MSDS standard provides 16 sections that should be included in MSDSs. These sections include:
Section 1. Chemical Product and Company Identification.
Section 2. Composition, Information, and Ingredients.
Section 3. Hazard Identification.
Section 4. First Aid Measures.
Section 5. Fire Fighting Measures.
Section 6. Accidental Release Measures.
Section 7. Handling and Storage.
Section 8. Exposure Controls, Personal Protection.
Section 9. Physical and Chemical Properties.
Section 10. Stability and Reactivity.
Section 11. Toxicological Information.
Section 12. Ecological Information.
Section 13. Disposal Considerations.
Section 14. Transport Information.
Section 15. Regulatory Information.
Section 16. Other Information.

Confined Space Entry

Entry into confined spaces is now regulated by the OSHA rule 29 CFR 1910.146, which became final on April 15, 1993. The rule requires employers to identify confined spaces in the workplace which pose health or safety hazards, prevent unauthorized entry in spaces, and protect authorized entrants from space hazards through a permit entry program.

General industries (including retail dealers) must issue a permit for entry into a space which has the following characteristics:

  • Limited openings for entry and exit (e.g., bins, silos, tanks);
  • Unfavorable natural ventilation;
  • Not intended for continuous worker occupancy; or
  • Subject to accumulation of an actual or potentially hazardous atmosphere or engulfment hazard.

Specific confined space hazards include:

  • Atmospheric conditions (e.g., toxic – gases, vapors, or fumes containing poison; asphyxiating – oxygen less than 19.5% or above 23.5%; flammable or explosive);
  • Entrapment (configuration causing asphyxiation);
  • Engulfment (dry bulk materials); and
  • Mechanical (exposure to electrical or mechanical sources).

Preventive measures mandated by the rule include ventilation and purging of the space, lockout of energy sources, atmospheric testing and monitoring, and emergency equipment. The employer has the responsibility of identifying confined spaces and implementing the permit entry program.

The employer will be required to issue an entry permit to an employee who will be entering the space. The permit must include the identity of the space, the purpose of entry, the date and duration of entry, a list of individuals authorized to enter, the attendant, the hazards of the space, and acceptable entry conditions. Employers will be required to retain canceled permits for at least one year to facilitate review of the permit program.

If an employee enters a “permit required confined space,” an employer will need to train the employee to be certain he/she has the knowledge and skills necessary for safe performance of the duties assigned. There are related OSHA rules such as 1910.134, which covers the use of respirators and must be incorporated into the program. Regional OSHA offices can provide copies of the rule and give assistance in developing the program.
Monitoring the individual while in the “permit required confined space” is also necessary. The attendant can monitor by TV monitors, videos, or electronic surveillance. The attendant can monitor more than one permit space at a time. Supervisors on duty must be aware of the hazards of the space, symptoms of exposure, and consequences of exposure. It is not necessary to have an in-house rescue team.

However, the employer must develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services.

If a “permit required confined space” is never entered by employees, no permit program is required. However, the space will need to be identified as dangerous with warning signs and be equipped with locks and/or other means to prevent employees from entering.

Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA promulgated a Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) in December 1991. This rule limits occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials since any exposure could result in transmission of bloodborne pathogens that could lead to disease or death. The regulation covers all employees who are reasonably anticipated as the result of performing their job duties to come into contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials.

The rule includes specific requirements:

  • A written exposure control plan;
  • Training of employees on the hazards with annual update;
  • Personal protective equipment to be provided by employer;
  • Medical recordkeeping for the duration of the employment plus 30 years; and
  • Hepatitis B vaccination paid for by employer.

Full implementation of the rule became mandatory July 6, 1992. Specific details of the bloodborne pathogen rule can be obtained from regional OSHA offices. 


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