The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued instructions to compliance safety and health officers on how to ensure consistent enforcement of the revised Hazard Communication standard (HCS).
OSHA revised the Hazard Communication standard in March 2012 to align with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. 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 classifies chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and establishes consistent labels and safety data sheets for all chemicals made in the United States and imported from abroad. The standard, once fully implemented, is expected to 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.
This instruction outlines the revisions to the HCS, such as the revised hazard classification of chemicals, standardizing label elements for containers of hazardous chemicals, and specifying the format and required content for safety data sheets. It explains how the revised standard is to be enforced during its transition period and after the standard is fully implemented on June 1, 2016.
Under the standard, employers were required to train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheets by December 1, 2013. Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors had to comply with revised safety data sheet requirements by June 1, 2015. Manufacturers and importers had to comply with new labeling provisions by June 1, 2015. Distributors have until December 1, 2015 to comply with labeling provisions as long as they are not relabeling materials or creating safety data sheets, in which case they must comply with the June 1 deadline.
Additional information on the revised Hazard Communication Standard may be found on OSHA’s Hazard Communication Safety and Health Topics page.