A Handy Guide to OSHA’s New HazCom Standard

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In 2012, OSHA revised the Hazard Communication Standard to be consistent with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classification and labeling of chemicals. The GHS is an international approach to hazard communication that provides specific criteria for classification of chemical hazards and a standardized approach to label elements and safety data sheets.

Since the United States is both a major importer and exporter of chemicals, American workers often see labels and safety data sheets required by other countries. As countries around the world adopt the GHS, chemicals will have consistent information, helping to ensure appropriate handling and safe use of workplace chemicals.

Here are the major changes to the Hazcom Standard:

  • Hazard classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards as well as classification of chemical mixtures.

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  • Labels:  As of June 1, 2015, all labels are required to have(1) product identifier, (2) pictogram, (3) signal word (4) hazard statement and precautionary statement, and (5) supplier identification. for each hazard class and category. Supplemental information can also be provided on the label as needed.

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  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS): (Formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets MSDS) The new format requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important protection information.

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  • Dates to Know: Employee training for the new labels and SDS system was required to be completed by Dec. 1, 2013. In addition to the training completion date, other OSHA Hazcom deadlines include:
    • June 1, 2015: Manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers had to comply with all modified provisions of the HSC final rule.
    • December 1, 2015: Distributors may no longer ship containers without a GHS label.
    • June 1, 2016: All employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.