Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its Hazard Communication Standard, and employers should be aware of crucial changes and compliance dates. The final rule on the standard was issued on March 26, 2012 and became effective on May 25, 2012.
The Hazard Communication Standard, which has been revised to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, will be fully implemented in 2016. The standard aims to benefit workers by reducing confusion about chemical hazards in the workplace, facilitating safety training, and improving understanding of hazards, especially for low literacy workers.
OSHA’s standard will classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and establish consistent labels and safety data sheets for all chemicals made in the United States and imported from abroad.
The new standard, once implemented, will prevent an estimated 43 deaths and result in an estimated $475.2 million in enhanced productivity for American businesses each year, according to OSHA. The revised standard also is expected to prevent an estimated 585 injuries and illnesses annually. It will reduce trade barriers and result in estimated annualized benefits in productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store, and use hazardous chemicals, as well as cost savings of $32.2 million for businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the standard.
“OSHA’s 1983 Hazard Communication Standard gave workers the right to know. As one participant expressed during our rulemaking process, this update will give them the right to understand, as well,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
During the transition period to the effective completion dates noted in the standard, chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers may comply with either 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.1200 (the final standard), the current standard or both. The final rule becomes effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register; however, OSHA has provided the following extended compliance dates to meet the new requirements:
- December 1, 2013: Employers must train employees on the new label elements and SDS format.
- June 1, 2015: Compliance with all modified provisions of the final rule for chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers. The only exception is for the December 1, 2015, distributor compliance date below.
- December 1, 2015: Distributors shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label.
- June 1, 2016: Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and their hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.
OSHA recognizes that hazard communication programs will go through a period of time where labels and SDSs under both standards will be present in the workplace. This will be considered acceptable, and employers are not required to maintain two sets of labels and SDSs for compliance purposes.
Further information for workers, employers and downstream users of hazardous chemicals can be reviewed at OSHA’s Hazard Communication Safety and Health topics website.