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Organic Solvents

Organic Solvents

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What are 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.

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?

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.

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.

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

In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). 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. Lastly, 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 applicable to organic solvents in North Carolina:

General Industry



Other standards associated with employee exposure to organic solvents include:



Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

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

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.