HazCom’s Consumer Product Exemption

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

The question arises from time to time about the need for acquiring and maintaining safety data sheets for household cleaning products such as Windex and Glass Plus. OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (2012) requires “all employers to provide information to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed.” However, this does not apply to consumer products when “use results in a duration and frequency of exposure which is not greater than the range of exposures that could reasonably be experienced by consumers when used for the purpose intended.”

OSHA clarifies this exemption in a Letter of Interpretation for two scenarios as follows.

Question 1: The employees of my client may create visual aids and presentation displays where they would use commercial art chemical products such as thinners, adhesives, and paints. Could you please clarify whether or not the use of consumer art products by my client's employees would meet the consumer products exemption under 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(6)(ix)?

Answer: The consumer product exemption of the HCS applies to the use of those products only if the employer can demonstrate they are used in the same manner (e.g., with the same frequency and duration of use) as a normal consumer would utilize them. In the scenario you provided, the employees of your client are performing operations related to their normal work requirements. During the execution of these duties they may be utilizing art chemicals such as paints, thinners, and adhesives. If the employees are routinely exposed to these hazardous chemicals, then they would be required to be afforded the chemical hazard information available through MSDS and hazard communication training. It is the responsibility of the employer to determine employee exposure and ascertain if the frequency of use/exposure is indeed not more than that which would be experienced by a normal consumer.

Question 2: Additionally, the offices of my client purchase products such as Windex and Office Cleaner so that their employees may clean their work stations. Would the office cleaning products used by my client's employees come under the consumer products exemption of the HCS?

Answer: You have indicated that these products are provided by your client for their employees to use for the occasional cleaning of work stations and not in situations related to a required work assignment. If your client's employees utilize the office cleaning products you mention (Windex and Office Cleaner) with the frequency and duration as that of a normal consumer, then the use of those cleaning chemicals would fall under the HCS exemption for consumer products, 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(6)(ix).

In this letter, OSHA adds that, “A consumer product that is used in a workplace in such a way that the duration and frequency of use are the same as that of a consumer is not required to be included in an employer's hazard communication program.”  

In summary, it remains the employer’s responsibility to make the assessment of exposure potential for consumer products to determine that the rate of use is not greater than that of normal consumer use.  Should it be determined that employees would likely use chemical products on a routine basis, thus increasing their exposure potential, then information and training must be provided through safety data sheet (SDS) availability and chemical manufacturer's label review. 

Click on this link to a MEMIC Safety Net Blog that describes training resources for the revised HazCom-GHS (2012) standard.


Winter Slip, Trip and Fall Safety Tips

DarnleyPosted by Dave Darnley, MS, CHSP

Slip, trip and fall incidents result in some of the most common workplace injuries.  The risk of falling outdoors increases in the winter as temperatures drop and ice and snow accumulate across a wide swath of the country.  Even though the days are getting longer, we have a lot of cold weather ahead. Consider the following reminders:

  • Plan for the weather by wearing appropriate footwear – even if you’re only going across the parking lot and in to the building, wear a low heel boot or shoe with good tread made for outdoor winter weather. You can carry in high heels or leather soled shoes and put them on when indoors.
  • Consider wearing a pair of ice cleats or other traction enhancement device such as Stabilicers, Yaktrax, ICETrekkers, or Winter-Tuff Ice Traction Spikes. These can be a lifesaver, but use with caution and follow manufacturer’s instructions to include removing before you walk indoors!  Check out various models and features at Top10The Best.   You can also access Pete Koch’s previous post entitled “What’s on Your Feet This Winter?” or Greg LaRochelle’s “A Whoops and a FOOSH: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls.”
  • When walking on ice and snow covered parking lots or walkways take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react appropriately to quick changes in traction.
  • Always use handrails when walking up or down steps. Take your time, and plant your feet firmly on each step.
  • Use caution when exiting or entering your vehicle – use the door handles and vehicle itself for support, as needed.
  • Even if parking lots or walkways have been cleared of snow – beware – there still could be “black ice.”  Water can refreeze and create a very slippery layer of ice that can be treacherous.
  • Try not to carry too much when walking in inclement conditions – keep your hands and arms free to help maintain your balance, if needed.
  • Once you get in your building safely, be sure to remove as much of the snow and water from your boots/shoes as possible. If you have dry shoes to change in to, do it as soon as you can safely sit in a chair, out of the way of other pedestrian traffic.

Feel free to share this information with fellow employees via safety postings or “toolbox talks”.  Far too many people will end up slipping and falling this winter.  These are preventable injuries when proper precautions are taken.  Take a look at OSHA’s Winter Weather Preparation page for more tips on various winter hazards and precautions.  Additional information on this and other employee safety topics can also be found within MEMIC’s Safety Director and Video Lending Library


OSHA Webinar - February 9

Westin Posted by Alexis Westin, MS, OHST

Got an OSHA Question? 

It can be hard to keep track of all the recent regulatory changes (like OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard, severe injury reporting program or automatic post-accident drug testing clarification) and what will be coming down the line for 2017. That’s why we’ve asked Sam Knight from SafetyWorks! to join MEMIC for an hour long webinar on February 9, 10:00-11:00am EST. We will be taking questions from MEMIC policyholders live during the webinar or you can email questions, with complete anonymity prior to the webinar, to AWestin@memic.com by February 3.

SafetyWorks! helps create safer workplaces with free confidential safety consultations throughout the state of Maine through the Department of Labor. They are not OSHA, but are knowledgeable in federal OSHA regulations.  There are similar services throughout the country that will complete free safety assessments regarding OSHA compliance. You can find your state’s resources through OSHA's Consultation directory.  Regardless of what state you work in, you’ll find this session beneficial. 

Regulatory changes impact employers everywhere and their employees’ safety. Regulatory experts like Sam Knight at SafetyWorks! can help improve employers’ knowledge of federal regulations and clarify common misunderstandings. We are excited to facilitate this conversation and hope it will spark discussion on many safety topics and answer common questions for a variety of industries. Whether you’re a company of ten employees or a thousand, there should be something to benefit everyone in this webinar. 

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You can register for this webinar, or simply check out our webinar and workshop schedule at memic.com/safetyacademy.