Beginning this month, manufacturers, distributors, and importers need to have all of their safety data sheets (SDSs) and labels updated to comply with the new criteria for the classifications of chemical mixtures and chemicals for health and physical hazards. This is the latest step in the transition to a Globally Harmonized System (GHS) outlined in the 2012 revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Based on this new standard, no longer is it enough for a label or SDS to simply state if a chemical is hazardous or not, now the severity of the hazard must also be explained. Since 1994, the material safety data sheets (MSDSs) have been ample information; however this is no longer the case.
Is your business fully compliant with OSHAs June 1, 2015 deadline?
The first step in meeting the new standards is gathering all of the necessary information from raw material suppliers. These suppliers must provide chemical manufacturers and chemical mixture developers with new data so that new SDSs can be created using an updated classification of the chemical hazard. Next distributors, who sell these products directly to customers, must be informed and updated with all of the new information before this new regulation can begin to benefit employees and the public.
This new standard, replacing a 1994 version, was created in 2012 with a plan for implementation over time. The June 1, 2015 deadline is just one in a series of deadlines. It was understood upon creating the deadlines that time would be needed to make the necessary revisions to the HCS. Therefore OSHA will allow distributors six months after the June 1 deadline, or until December 1, 2015, to completely phase out labels with the 1994 version of the HCS used on products being shipped. Employers are given an additional six months after that (June 1, 2016) to give employees additional training on newly established physical or health hazards and update workplace labeling based on the new HCS guidelines.
Once enforcement begins, leniency will be given to those who are able to provide documentation proving that they have made an effort to meet the deadlines yet were unable to do so through no fault of their own. This “case-by-case” mentality is meant to alleviate some of the problems that occur when new regulations must pass through a series of hands- manufacturers, importers, and distributors. In cases which show that “reasonable diligence” and “good faith” were exercised in an attempt to comply with the new HCS, a citation may be avoided.
This means that as your business moves to comply with the 2012 standards, it is important to develop a system of documenting the efforts made to obtain the updated classification information and SDSs from raw material suppliers. Attempts to classify the data yourself should also be noted, as well as any effort to find hazard information from different sources. Keep dated records and correspondences with all upstream suppliers that highlight your efforts. Also keep dated records that inform your distributors why your business has not been able to comply with the new HCS. Be able to show that your business had developed a timeline for when HCS 2012 compliance is anticipated.
Making the transition to a GHS as described in the 2012 HCS is a process requiring changes over time. First, in 2013 employers were required to train their employees on how to read this new GHS format in their SDS. This June 1st implementation is the next step, requiring that all labels and SDSs be updated by manufacturers and importers to this GHS format. In six months, distributors must have phased out all pre-GHS labeling. Finally by June 1, 2016 all employers must be in compliance with the new standard. Employees must be trained, new hazards are classified, labels are all updated, and all other requirements of the 2012 HCS are met. Remember to document all efforts towards reaching a fully implemented switch to the GHS in order to avoid citation if you are unable to complete the transitions by their respective deadlines.