Organic Solvents

A solvent is a substance that is capable of dissolving or dispersing other substances. An organic solvent is a carbon-based solvent for which the class of compound (type and arrangement of other atoms present) can determine what substances will dissolve in it.

Organic Solvents

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with organic solvents?

Because organic solvents are carbon-based, many of them are highly flammable. In addition, several solvents have been determined to be health hazards including, but not limited to, carcinogens (e.g., benzene, formaldehyde), reproductive hazards (e.g., 2-ethoxyethanol, 2-butoxyethanol) and neurotoxins (e.g., n-hexane, chloroform, methylene chloride). Other health hazards associated with the use of organic solvents include dermatitis.


What can I do to protect myself?

Review the safety data sheet for any organic solvent chosen to become familiar with its physical and health hazards. Use organic solvents only with adequate ventilation and away from any ignition sources. Be sure to use appropriate personal protective equipment, especially gloves, when transferring organic solvents from one container to another.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

An example hazardous chemical program and personal protective equipment hazard assessment can be downloaded and customized to fit an individual workplace. Employers are required to perform a workplace hazard analysis to determine what personal protective equipment is necessary to protect employees from continued exposure to identified hazards.

In addition, example programs for hazard communication and chemical hygiene are available for workplaces for which these written compliance programs are required.

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations on hazard communication, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection and toxic and hazardous substances can be downloaded and modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards.

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. These pre-recorded webinars on hazard communication, respiratory protection and toxic and hazardous substances can also be accessed at any time.

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). 

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

The A-Z topics page on 1-bromopropanedipping and coatingflammable liquids, hazard communication, hierarchy of controls, laboratory safety, personal protective equipment and respiratory protection can provide additional resource information. 

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to organic solvents in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry

Maritime, Shipyard Employment


Other standards associated with employee exposure to organic solvents include:

General Industry


Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.



Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Compliance Documents

The following compliance directives establish the enforcement policy and provide an explanation of the standards with which they are associated:

  • CPL 02-02-045 - 29 CFR 1910.119, process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals - compliance guidelines and enforcement procedures

  • CPL 02-02-070 - inspection procedures for occupational exposure to methylene chloride

  • CPL 02-02-073 - inspection procedures for 29 CFR 1910.120 & 1926.65, paragraph (q): emergency response to hazardous substances releases

  • CPL 02-02-079 - inspection procedures for the hazard communication standard (HCS 2012)

  • CPL 03-00-021 - process safety management (PSM) covered facilities

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.