New OSHA Letter of Interpretation clarifies Import/Export issues under the HCS

On November 23rd, 2015 the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) which offered further clarification of US companies’ responsibilities when importing or exporting materials which require action under the 29 CFR 1910.1200 Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).  This standard was revised in 2012 to harmonize it with the UN Globally Harmonized System (GHS).   The inquiry generating the LOI was made by the American Coatings Association and asked OSHA to more clearly delineate the compliant treatment of imported materials and the export of subject materials in sealed containers.

OSHA noted the following points:

For import:

  • Importers are responsible to assure compliant labeling effective when the material is placed under their control.
  • Importers must follow the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(4) where applicable.
  • Importers must assure compliance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1) (follow previous link) prior to shipping to US destinations.
  • OSHA recommends review of their compliance directive CPL-02-02-079 Section X.F.2h, in reference to materials packaged for shipment prior to June 1st, 2015.

For export:

  • (1) If sealed containers are prepared for direct shipment to destinations outside the US and are inside a USDOT approved shipping container, the manufacturer can label the container for the destination country. However, an HCS compliant label must be affixed to the outside package or attached to the shipping paper.
  • (2) If such containers are stored in a manufacturer’s onsite warehouse prior to shipment overseas, then the external packaging must be labeled in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(6) in addition to the requirements in (1) above.
  • (3) If such containers are stored in an manufacturer’s off-site or third party warehouse prior to shipment overseas, then the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1200 (b)(4) apply in addition to the requirements listed in (1) above. The manufacturer must provide a safety data sheet to the third party employer.

The bottom line

Manufacturers exporting subject materials may find some relief from the otherwise potentially onerous burden of attempting to label a shipped container under both US and the destination country’s regulations.  Importers have effectively been reminded that if they cannot arrange for compliant labeling to be applied to the subject material prior to US entry, the duty will fall on them.

Here is a link to the LOI , provided by the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC), a not-for-profit industry trade and advocacy organization.

Here is a link to the most current online version of the 29 CFR 1910.1200 HCS.

Labelmaster is a full service provider of goods and services for the Hazardous Materials and Dangerous Goods professional, shippers, transport operators, and EH&S providers. See our full line of solutions at or call and speak with our customer service staff at (800) 621-5808.

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