In the world of safety compliance, proper classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals has far-reaching importance for safety professionals working in various industries. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says its new Hazardous Communications Standard will affect over 40 million workers and five million workplaces. Given the nature of hazardous materials, even safety professionals who aren’t directly affected by the changes should be aware of the coming changes.
OSHA has seen delays this year in publishing its revised Hazard Communication Standard, but the final rule is set for review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. OSHA submitted the rule to the Office on Management and Budget on October 25. It could take up to 90 days to review, but you can now view the Hazard Communication Standard rule online.
The standard requires that chemical manufacturers and importers evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to downstream employers and workers by putting labels on containers. This will include preparing safety data sheets. The new Hazard Communication Standard implements the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
If the review goes without any issues for OSHA, adoption of the GHS could be imminent. While the adoption of new standards can be a costly process, OSHA says reducing safety and health risks with these revisions will actually provide a net annual savings of $754 million a year and help prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries or illnesses each year.
What are the main changes OSHA is proposing for the Hazard Communication Standard? According to the administration’s fact sheet, the changes will include the following:
– 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.
– Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
– Information and training: The GHS does not address training. However, the proposed HCS will require that workers are trained within two years of the publication of the final rule to facilitate recognition and understanding of the new labels and safety data sheets.
As the leader in safety compliance and inspection software, we’ve been watching the development of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard for a few years, since the administration accepted public comments on the proposed revisions in 2009. In a live regulatory agenda chat on July 11th this year, OSHA mentioned delays in publishing the final Hazard Communication Standard due to “extensive reviews,” but committed to a September 2011 publishing date (only a few weeks earlier than the Oct. 25th rule submission). Now that it’s ready for review, the changes could be official within a few short months.
If all goes well with the OMB, the new Hazard Communication Standard could be phased-in over a period of three years. But, with the power of safety and compliance software, many leading companies may be able to save time, get compliant, and ensure that safety and training processes are ready for change.