By Heidi Slinkard Brasher
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its Hazard Communications (HazCom) standard to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals in a final rule published on March 26, 2012 (Federal Register Volume 77, Number 58).
OSHA’s stated purpose for making such a change is to reduce worker confusion regarding workplace hazards through hazard training and understanding while classifying chemicals based on their health and physical hazards and establishing labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to replace the current Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for chemicals made in or imported to the United States. While the HazCom standard was implemented to provide U.S. workers the right to know to what hazards the chemicals in their workplaces may expose them, OSHA is now concerned that such information is not as clear to workers with limited literacy when compared with the UN’s GHS labeling.
Full implementation is scheduled for 2016. In the meantime, employers may comply with either the final standard of 29 CFR 1910.1200, the current standard, or both.
As was the case with MSDSs, the new SDSs are to be provided for each hazardous chemical sent to downstream users by chemical manufacturers, distributors or importers. The SDSs are to provide information regarding hazards associated with each particular chemical, but the format of the SDS is different than the MSDSs of the past. The new standard requires “harmonized” criteria and labeling elements.
The 16-part SDS format is divided as follows:
- General information about the chemical, hazards, components, safe handling, and energy control are found in sections 1-8.
- Technical and scientific information is contained in sections 9-11 and 16.
- UN GHS-compliant sections are found in sections 12-15, but will not be enforced by OSHA because other agencies regulate these concerns (i.e., ecological information, disposal considerations, transport information, and regulatory information).
As with MSDSs, employers must ensure SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all the chemicals in their workplace such that employees have ready access to that information without leaving the work area. This may be accomplished through maintenance of physical binders and/or by electronic means. However, back-up access must be available in case of power outage or electronic system
failure if an employer chooses to utilize and electronic system for
those employees whose workplace includes ready access to the
electronic SDSs. Note that workplaces without ready access to
computers must still maintain print copies (i.e., binders) of SDSs
just as it does currently for MSDSs).
The final rule requires chemical producers to revise their
products’ hazard information and classify each one according to the
new classification criteria while updating labels and SDSs. Chemical
users are to continue to update MSDSs with SDSs as they become
available and train employees on the new label elements while
updating their HazCom programs if new hazards are identified.
- Employers must train on the new label elements and SDS
format by 12/1/2013.
- Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and
employers must comply with all modified provisions of
the final rule by 6/1/2015, except that distributors may ship
product with old system labels until 12/1/2015.
- Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and
HazCom program as necessary and provide additional
employee training for newly identified physical or health
hazards by 6/1/2016.
- All chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and
employers must comply with 29 CFR 1910.1200 (final
standard), or the current standard, or both during the