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Federal OSHA Revises Hazcom Requirements

In March 2012, Federal OSHA revised its Hazard Communication (Hazcom) Standard to align with the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS is an international approach to hazard communication, negotiated by hazcom experts from many different countries, international organizations, and stakeholder groups. It provides unified classification criteria for chemical health, physical, and environmental hazards, and includes standardized label elements and consistent format for safety data sheets.

The revisions affect mostly chemical manufacturers, distributors, and importers, but do introduce some new requirements for employers. The major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard require a new hazard classification system for chemicals, new labeling of chemical containers, standard formatting for safety data sheets (SDS – previously called material safety data sheets), and updated employee information and training.

Specifically, the major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard include:

  • Hazard Classification: Chemical manufacturers, distributors, and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce, distribute, or import. The newly updated standard provides specific criteria to identify health and physical hazards as well as classification of chemical mixtures.
  • Labels: For each chemical substance, chemical manufacturers, distributors, and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.
  • Safety Data Sheets: The new format for safety data sheets requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of protection information.
  • Information and Training: To facilitate understanding of the new system, the new standard requires that workers be trained by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet format. Additionally, employers have until June 1, 2016 to update chemical labeling and written hazcom plan onsite, and to provide additional employee training as needed to implement the new requirements.

Most of the requirements have a compliance date of 2015, with a final compliance date of June 2016. However, one requirement applicable to chemical users goes into effect in a year and a half, on December 1, 2013. Briefly, employers who utilize chemicals in their place of business have until that time to train employees on the new label and SDS requirements.

Because California requirements must be at least as stringent as Federal requirements, it is expected that Cal/OSHA will begin revising its Hazcom Standard very soon. One of the OSHA Review newsletters for 2013 will detail the new Cal/OSHA Hazcom requirements, once they are in place. To stay up-to-date on important OSHA Dental Compliance and Regulations, sign-up for our OSHA Review Newsletter.

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