HazCom’s Consumer Product Exemption

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.

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