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What You Need to Know!

On March 20, 2012, OSHA issued a final rule that substantially modifies its Hazard
Communication Standard (HCS) to conform to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized
System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The modifications to the HCS include:

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

What Does the Standard Require?

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires that employees be provided with hazard information about the chemicals with which they work. Employees receive such information through the effective labeling of hazardous product containers, through the availability of material safety data sheets, and through comprehensive training programs.

Training Resources to Help You Comply

Effective Dates

The table below summarizes the phase-in dates required under the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS):

Effective Completion Date
Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format.
Dec. 1, 2013
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule except:

The distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label.
June 1, 2015

Dec. 1, 2015
Employers Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. June 1, 2016

What Are the Common Hazards and Solutions?

Working with hazardous chemicals can be a dangerous endeavor and the consequences can be serious. Exposure to hazardous chemicals can contribute to many health effects, including heart ailments and kidney and lung damage. The use of chemicals also has the potential to cause fires, explosions, and serious accidents.

Safety data sheets (SDS) represent the primary source of hazard information and must be readily accessible to workers. They should contain all pertinent physical and health hazard information, exposure limits, precautions for safe handling and use, and applicable control measures including personal protective equipment use requirements.

Product labeling also is an effective method used to communicate hazard information. Intended to be an immediate visual reminder of the hazards presented by a chemical product, labels are required to include all appropriate physical and health hazard warnings.

Effective employee training is crucial. Employers are required to provide workers with information and training regarding the chemicals they will work with. Training must be provided prior to exposure to a hazardous chemical.

Keep in mind that it is not enough to make the information available. Employers need to make sure that hazard information is fully understood by employees. Employers must take into account language barriers, illiteracy and other factors and take all actions necessary to ensure that employees gain the necessary understanding of all hazards associated with those chemicals they may be exposed to.

Ultimately, employers must develop and implement a written hazard communication program that includes all of the elements of hazard communication referenced above.