The A,B,C’s of OSHA’s Revised Hazard Communication Standard

DangerousChemicals_smallDo you have any acetone lying around your workplace? Unless you’re in the business of cleaning brake pads, probably not. But what about paint, glue or cleaning products?

The point is that most businesses use potentially hazardous chemicals in some form or fashion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires manufacturers to properly label those chemicals. It also requires employers to train employees on how to safely handle chemicals.

In March 2012, OSHA introduced changes to its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The revised standard is designed to improve the quality, consistency and clarity of hazard information that workers receive. With the revisions, the HCS aligns with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

What changed?
The revised HCS includes three significant changes employers and employees need to know about:

  • Hazard classification. OSHA changed the definition of hazard to provide specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria will help ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate.
  • 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. Referred to as Material Safety Data Sheets under the old system, Safety Data Sheets will now have a specified 16-section format.

What didn’t change?
The parts of the HCS that did not relate to the GHS, such as the basic framework, scope and exemptions, remain largely unchanged. There have been some modifications to terminology, though. For example, the term “hazard determination” was changed to “hazard classification,” and “material safety data sheet” was changed to “safety data sheet.”

What does it meant to you?
OSHA requires employers to train their employees on the revised HCS by December 1, 2013. Training must include information on the new label elements and the safety data sheets. To help you comply with the requirements, OSHA published a HCS page on its website.

Click here for other key dates regarding HCS. OSHA also offers more information on labels/pictograms and Safety Data Sheets.


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