OSHA revises its Hazard Communication Standard to Align it with the U.N.’s Global Chemical Labeling System

On March 26, 2012, OSHA published its Final Rule modifying the current Hazard Communications Standard at 29 CFR Parts 1910, 1915, and 1926 in order to align the standard with the U.N.’s Global Chemical Labeling System.

Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and all employers (including health care employers) with hazardous chemicals in their workplace are affected by the changes in the hazard communication requirements.

OSHA spearheaded the effort for an international standard of hazard communication because it felt it was a necessity for companies competing globally. A patchwork of international standards has been expensive from a compliance standpoint. There are different classification, labeling and safety data sheet standards for the same products when marketed and sold overseas.

The revised standard includes three major areas of change in hazard classification, labels, and safety data sheets.

Hazard classification

OSHA has changed the definitions of hazard to provide specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria are designed to help ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.

Labels

OSHA now requires chemical manufacturers and importers 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.

Safety Data Sheets

OSHA has now specified at 16-section format for safety data sheets that is based on the international standard. You can find a listing of the sections here – http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/hazcom-faq.html#12

The revised regulations, set forth in the Final Rule, require manufacturers to evaluate their chemicals and determine if they fit the standard. If they do, the manufacturer has a transition period from the publication of the rule until June 15, 2012 to bring itself into compliance.

More importantly, employers (including health care employers) need to train employees on the new label formats and safety data sheet formats by December 1, 2013. OSHA is apparently requiring the training to occur earlier than when U.S. manufacturers have to fully comply because it believes U.S. employers and others may start seeing products with the international standards implemented prior to the compliance date for U.S. companies. As a result, employers need to begin designing new training materials and thinking about how they are going to train employees on the new standard.

You can find a copy of the Hazard Communication Final Rule here – http://www.osha.gov/FedReg_osha_pdf/FED20120326.pdf

You can find additional information about the changes to hazard communication, frequently asked questions and other compliance-related materials here – http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/index.html

For more information on the changes to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard or OSHA compliance in the health care industry in general, please feel free to contact Ari Markenson or any member of our health care practice group for a further discussion.

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