Thursday, March 22, 2012

OSHA Quicktakes Announces HAZCOMM Standard Revision

The March 22, 2012 (Volume 11, Issue 7) of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) "QuickTakes" anounced "OSHA Aligns HazardCommunication Standard with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System ofClassification and Labeling of Chemicals."  This announcement has been awaited by the environmental, industrial hygiene, and safety industry for some time now.  The QuickTakes discusses the March 20 press teleconference hosted by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis joined by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels announcing the final rule updating OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification a...
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) pictogram for corrosive substances (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The purpose of the revision is to align the standard with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.  The standard should better protect workers and help American businesses compete in a global economy.
Assistant Secretary Michaels explained that OSHA's revised Hazard Communication standard (HCS), which will be fully implemented in 2016, benefits workers by reducing confusion in the workplace, facilitating safety training, and improving understandings of hazards, especially for low-wage and limited-literacy workers. The harmonized standard will classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and establish consistent labels and safety data sheets (SDS) for all chemicals made in the United States or imported from abroad.  For more information, listen to an audio-recording of the press conference and see the press release.
Employers must train workers on the new label elements and SDS format by December 1, 2013. Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers must comply with all modified provisions of the final rule by June 1, 2015.  However, distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015.  By June 1, 2016, employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as necessary, and provide additional worker training for new identified physical and health hazards.  During this transition period, all chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers may comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (this final standard), or the current standard, or both.
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