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OSHA Modifies Hazard Communication Standard

Submitted by Firm:
Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC
Firm Contacts:
Louis P. DiLorenzo, Thomas G. Eron
Article Type:
Legal Update
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently modified its existing Hazard Communication Standard (the "HCS") to conform to the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (the "GHS"). The new HCS includes a detailed schedule for implementation (see below) and can be found in the March 26, 2012 Federal Register. If you have not yet revised safety data sheets, labeling and training programs please contact us to discuss how to comply with the new standard.

The HCS (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires chemical manufacturers and importers to assess the hazards of chemicals that they produce or import and to provide that information to employers. Employers must then provide information to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed by means of a hazard communication program, labels, safety data sheets, and training. The HCS also requires distributors to transmit this information to employers.

The GHS had hazard communication rules that were different from the HCS with regard to the scope of chemicals covered, the definition of hazards, the specificity of requirements and the use of symbols and pictograms. The inconsistencies between the various laws were substantial enough to require different labels and safety data sheets to be developed for the same product when it was marketed in different countries.

The modifications to the HCS are intended to minimize the inconsistencies between the HCS and the GHS, and they include: 

  • revised criteria for the classification of chemical hazards; 
  • revised labeling provisions that include requirements for use of standardized signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, and precautionary statements; 
  • a new format for safety data sheets; and  
  • revisions to definitions of terms used in the standard, and requirements for employee training on labels and safety data sheets.

OSHA is also modifying provisions of other standards, including standards for flammable and combustible liquids, process safety management, and most substance specific health standards, to ensure consistency with the modified HCS requirements. http://www.bsk.com/archives/detail.cfm?archive=publication&ID=1389