Maybe you know this already, maybe you’ve heard some whispers but don’t know the full story, or maybe you’re sitting in your chair right now, reading your computer screen and asking yourself "What the heck is this all about?"
Whether you know about this already or not, the fact is that labeling requirements in the United States for hazardous chemicals are about to change.
OSHA has updated their Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) so that it will comply with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. In catchier terms, this is known as the Globally Harmonized System or simply the GHS.
The purpose of the change is to standardize chemical labeling requirements not just within the United States, but throughout the entire world.
According to OSHA, there are three primary changes. In OSHA’s own words, they are:
Hazard classification: The definitions of hazard have been changed to provide specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria will help to ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.
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.
Not so bad, huh? If you’re like us, your next question might be something like "So when do all the changes in the workplace have to take effect?" Here are some key dates for you, again taken straight from OSHA:
Note that all employees must be trained on the new GHS label elements and the new safety data sheet (SDS) format by December 1, 2013. That’s still a ways in the future, but it’s a good idea to begin planning now.
For our part, Convergence Training has a new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) training module in production. We’ll have it ready for you pretty soon, and it should help you train your employees for this new Hazard Communication change.
For more information about OSHA’s Haz-Com Standard and the new revisions for GHS standardization, see: www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/