OSHA recently finalized its update to the Hazard Communication Standard, aligning the rule with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The new reg has major implications for chemical manufacturers and any companies that work with hazardous substances.
The new rule, clocking in at 858 pages in the Federal Register (PDF), standardizes labels and material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous chemicals. Under the new standard, every label must include the following elements:
- Pictogram: one of nine symbols depicting the hazards of the substance
- Signal words: a single word used to indicate the relative level of severity of hazard
- Hazard Statement: a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard, and
- Precautionary Statement: a phrase that describes recommended measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical, or improper storage or handling.
OSHA says the new rules put a heavier emphasis on pictograms and making the hazards easier to understand. The previous standard, published in 1983, focused on employees’ right to know about hazards. This update helps workers to understand the hazards, OSHA said.
The new reg will prevent 585 injuries and illnesses every year, OSHA said, and will save companies $32.2 million. The rule will affect about 43 million workers.
Critics of the new rule took issue with the “unclassified hazards” category, which they say will make compliance difficult.
Companies are required to train employees on the new label elements and MSDS format by Dec. 1, 2013. Chemical manufacturers must comply with the new rule by June 1, 2015.
OSHA has published a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions page on the new standard.