Plastic Resins and EPCRA Section 311 / 312 Reporting
Are plastic resins such as polypropylene and polyethylene subject to Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) [also known as Safety Data Sheet (SDS)] Reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Section 311 and Chemical Inventory (i.e., Tier II) Reporting under EPCRA Section 312?
The reporting requirements of Sections 311 and 312 of EPCRA apply to owners and operators of facilities that are required to prepare or have a MSDS or SDS for any hazardous chemical as defined under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) or its Hazardous Communication Standards (HCS). EPA has not issued a list of hazardous chemicals subject to this reporting, but rather relies on the definition of hazardous chemical under the OSHA HCS regulations, which is defined as “any chemical which is classified as a physical hazard or a health hazard, a simple asphyxiant, combustible dust, pyrophoric gas, or hazard not otherwise classified” (29 CFR Section 1910.1200(c)).
Manufacturers have classified some plastic resins as combustible dusts on corresponding SDSs. Although combustible dust is not defined in the HCS, it is defined in OSHA’s Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) as “a combustible particulate solid that presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape.” Combustible particulate solid is defined as “any combustible solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape, or chemical composition.” OSHA has advised EPA that the combustible dust definition is not limited to the portion of material which is airborne. If the SDS of a material states that it is a combustible dust, then the material, even while resting on a surface or stored in a silo, would still be a combustible dust by definition.
Therefore, if you have plastic resins, such as polypropylene and polyethylene, classified as combustible dusts present onsite above threshold levels for which you are required to maintain an SDS, you are subject to reporting under EPCRA Sections 311 and 312.
For more information for facilities operating in the plastics industry, please see the Hazardous Chemical Reporting Advisory: Facilities Operating in the Plastics Industry.