The US Hazard Communication (HazCom) standard is going global—are you ready?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s revised 2012 federal regulations are aligning with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The new system is being implemented throughout the world by countries including Canada, the European Union, China, Australia, and Japan.

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What This Means. For starters, you’ll begin seeing new container labels for hazardous chemicals and new Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), which were formally known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs).

As part of the transition, OSHA has mandated training for all employees who may be exposed to hazardous materials by December 1, 2013. The training must cover the new GHS labels, pictograms, and SDSs. According to OSHA representatives, the training is needed early in the transition process because workers are beginning to see the new labels and SDSs on the chemicals in their workplace.

This training will include GHS-compliant labels and the nine international Hazard Communication Pictograms. The training must also describe GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheets, including:

  • The type of information found in each of the 16 sections
  • How the information on the SDS is related to that on the container labels
  • How an employee should use the SDSs and container labels
  • A general explanation of how the elements work together on a label

The new rules must be fully implemented by June 2016.

 Major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard

  • Hazard classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards as well as classification of chemical mixtures.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.
  • Safety Data Sheets: The new format requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important protection information.
  • Information and training: To facilitate understanding of the new system, the new standard requires that workers be trained by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet format, in addition to the current training requirements.

Protection to the Worker. The revised rules will standardize the information available to employees about the dangerous substances that they may encounter in their workplace. OSHA estimates that the revised HazCom standard will prevent 43 fatalities and 585 illnesses annually.

Additional information can be found at www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/index.html.

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