Changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) are bringing the United States into alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), further improving safety and health protection for America’s workers. By December 2013, employees who work with hazardous chemicals need to be trained on the new Hazard Communication Standard. Building on the success of OSHA’s current Hazard Communication Standard, the GHS is expected to prevent injuries and illnesses, save lives, and improve trade conditions for chemical manufacturers. The Hazard Communication Standard in 1983 gave the workers the ‘right to know,’ but the new Globally Harmonized System gives workers the ‘right to understand.’
The new Hazard Communication Standard still requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets. However, the old standard allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to convey hazard information on labels and material safety data sheets in whatever format they chose. The modified standard provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets.
Major Changes to the Hazard Communication Standard:
- Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
- Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided. (EMPLOYERS WILL HAVE TO MAKE GHS COMPLIANT LABELS IN MANY CASES)
- Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
- Information and training: Employers are required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.
Benefits: The new standard covers over 43 million workers who produce or handle hazardous chemicals in more than five million workplaces across the country. The modification is expected to prevent over 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually. Once fully implemented it will also:
- Enhance worker comprehension of hazards, especially for low and limited-literacy workers, reduce confusion in the workplace, facilitate safety training, and result in safer handling and use of chemicals;
- Provide workers quicker and more efficient access to information on the safety data sheets;
- Result in cost savings to American businesses of more than $475 million in productivity improvements, fewer safety data sheet and label updates and simpler new hazard communication training; and
- Reduce trade barriers by harmonizing with systems around the world.
Topics to be Covered in GHS Training Include:
- Background on GHS and how the GHS program will function.
- Factors that influenced the development of the GHS communication tools.
- Changes in hazard definitions and classifications.
- New system of label elements for hazard class and category (signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, etc.).
- Overview of 16-section Safety Data Sheet (SDS) format.
Effective Dates and Requirements for Compliance:
December 1, 2013 – Train Employees on the new label elements and MSDS Format (For Employers)
June 1, 2014 – Washington State starts enforcing the training requirements.
June 1, 2015 – Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except: (For Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers)
December 1, 2015 – The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label. (For Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers)
June 1, 2016 – Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. (For Employers)
Data Transition Period – Comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (this final standard), or the current standard