Friday, September 30, 2011

Globally Harmonized System in 2012?

OSHA published a proposed rulemaking on September 30, 2009 to align OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (HCS) with the GHS. The primary benefit of the GHS is to increase the quality and consistency of information provided to workers, employers and chemical users by adopting a standardized approach to hazard classification, labels and safety data. The GHS provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. Under the GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements. Additionally, all safety data sheets would have standardized format. This system was agreed on at an international level by governments, industry, and labor, and adopted by the UN in 2002 with a goal of 2008 for implementation.

The major proposed changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) are the following:

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
  • 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.
  • Information and training: The GHS does not address training. However, the proposed HCS will require that workers are trained within two years of the publication of the final rule to facilitate recognition and understanding of the new labels and safety data sheets.
This Final Rule is expected to be in full effect in early 2012. You may visit National Safety Compliance's web site to preorder your Safety Data Sheet Binders and Accessories.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When is the chemical manufacturer required to distribute MSDSs?

We are frequently asked if we can provide the Material Safety Data Sheet(s) for chemicals. The manufacturer of the hazardous chemical is always the best source for the MSDS. So when is the manufacturer required to distribute the MSDS?

Hazard information must be transmitted on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) must be distributed to the customer at the time of first shipment of the product. The Hazard Communication Standard also requires that MSDSs be updated by the chemical manufacturer or importer within three months of learning of "new or significant information" regarding the chemical's hazard potential.

Further explanation of this issue is given in a Letter of Interpretation on June 24, 1994 written to Congressman McHale explaining:

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) is designed to ensure that employees are adequately informed of hazards associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. This standard requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazard potential of chemical products that they manufacture or import, and to disseminate hazard information to downstream distributors and users of those products. Hazard information must be transmitted on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) that must be distributed to the customer at the time of first shipment of the product. The Hazard Communication Standard also requires that MSDSs be updated by the chemical manufacturer or importer within three months of learning of "new or significant information" regarding the chemical's hazard potential. Therefore, chemical manufacturers and importers have a positive requirement to keep informed of developing hazard information relative to the products that they produce, and to transmit new information with the next shipment of a product made after the MSDS has been updated. The standard also contains specific criteria for defining hazards and for making the hazard determination.

The Hazard Communication Standard requires all employers (including those in the health care industry) to develop a written hazard communication program that ensures that employees are formally trained in the hazards associated with exposure to chemical agents, and in the methods and procedures designed to protect them from those hazards. It is the employer's obligation under the standard to incorporate any new hazard information transmitted on MSDSs into the hazard communication program.