I just came across a 1995 letter (full text below) from OSHA’s Office of Health Compliance. I found it here:
There is a sentence in the letter that appears to me to be very important in the way we manage the MSDSs for “legacy chemicals.” Legacy chemicals are for us old bottles of pure chemicals which
1. are still in good shape,
2. were sold and purchased before Hazcom (1983), and predate the MSDS requirement,
3. were manufactured by companies that have gone out of business, and
4. whose MSDSs are impossible to find in a good-faith effort.
For chemicals of this type in our inventory (about 50 – 100 bottles), we have found “generic” MSDSs from other manufacturers or from MSDS supply companies that we have included in our MSDS binders. However, after a previous post in this forum, I have been convinced that we are legally required to have an MSDS for a chemical from the specific manufacturer of that chemical. If we can’t find an MSDS that is manufacturer-specific, I have reluctantly marked those perfectly good chemicals for disposal and replacement.
After reading the letter, it looks to me like the first two sentences in the second-to-last paragraph relieve us of the burden of obtaining a manufacturer-specific MSDS for these legacy chemicals: “Manufacturing employers were not legally required to obtain, maintain, and make available upon request copies of MSDSs until May 26, 1986, (the effective date of the final rule). Thus, the employer is under no legal obligation to do so for hazardous chemicals purchased prior to 1985.”
I would be grateful for an opinion from those of you out there who know far more than me.
October 6, 1995
Mr. James Roberts
614 South Third Avenue
Tucson, Arizona 85701
Dear Mr. Roberts:
The Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200, became a final rule for manufacturing facilities on November 25, 1983. That standard mandated each employer to obtain and maintain copies of MSDSs for each hazardous chemical used in the facility. Although the use and availability of MSDSs were fairly widespread in the chemical industry prior to 1983, there was no regulatory standard. At that time MSDSs were required under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards in the maritime industry (29 CFR Parts 1915, 1916, and 1917). Some state right-to-know laws also required the availability of MSDSs, but most of the data sheets were generated as a good business practice rather than as a response to legal requirements. Properly completed MSDSs serve as excellent, concise sources of information regarding the hazard of the chemical.
In the preamble to the proposed rule (F.R. Vol. 46, No. 11, page 4436), as in the preamble to the final rule (F.R. Vol. 48, No. 228 pages 53305 - 53306) OSHA recognizes the fact that some employers voluntarily maintained copies of MSDSs prior to 1983. OSHA also stressed the utility of the data sheets and the importance of making those data sheets available to employees.
· "Where available, copies of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substances and mixtures be given to workers and their representatives upon request."
· "The proposed standard would provide material safety data sheets (if they exist) to workers upon requests."
· "The fact that some employers do not voluntarily provide MSDSs, or that when provided the sheets may not contain thorough information, does not detract from the utility of an MSDS ... when it contains the necessary information and is readily available to employees ..."
Manufacturing employers were not legally required to obtain, maintain, and make available upon request copies of MSDSs until May 26, 1986, (the effective date of the final rule). Thus, the employer is under no legal obligation to do so for hazardous chemicals purchased prior to 1985. However, if MSDSs were voluntarily obtained and maintained, it is good business and industrial hygiene practice to make those data sheets available to employees in light of OSHA's definition of "exposure records." OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records defines "employee exposure records" to include MSDSs.
We hope this information will be of assistance to you. If you should have any further questions please feel free to contact OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance, MaryAnn Garrahan at (202) 219-8036.
Ruth E. McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance
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