• The Wait Is Over - OSHA Publishes Final Hazard Communication Standard
  • March 23, 2012 | Authors: Tressi L. Cordaro; H. Bernard Tisdale
  • Law Firms: Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. - Washington Office ; Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. - Charlotte Office
  • In a much anticipated move, on March 20, 2012, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the final revised Hazard Communication Standard. The final standard will be published in the Federal Register on March 26, 2012, and will become effective, in part, on June 26, 2012, with a built-in transition period and a fully effective date of June 1, 2016.

    Revisions to the Hazard Communication Standard began in September 2006 when OSHA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking announcing its intent to update the Standard and bring it into line with international law. This announcement followed the United Nations’ 2002 adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). In September 2009, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking soliciting public comments on the proposed rule, and the agency held public hearings in March 2010.  

    Chemical manufacturers and importers, and employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplace have had to manage differing international and national rules and regulations governing the classification and labeling of hazardous materials, and a lack of consistent specifications for safety data sheets. In an effort to create an internationally consistent hazard communication system, the United Nations adopted the GHS - a uniform system of defining, classifying and communicating hazardous chemical information on labels and safety data sheets. OSHA’s revised Standard harmonizes the Hazard Communication Standard with international law and requires employers to convey hazardous chemical information using a standard and uniform set of criteria.

    Key Revisions

    The key revisions to the Standard include:

    • Disclosure of voluntary threshold limit values (TLVs) established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH);

    • Disclosure of carcinogen status from nationally and internationally recognized lists of carcinogens;

    • Creation of a new category of hazards - “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified”;

    • Inclusion of combustible dust in the definition of “hazardous chemical”;

    • A requirement that labels contain a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category;

    • A new format for safety data sheets with 16 specific sections; and

    • Training for employees on the new labels and safety data sheet format.

    Delayed Effective Dates

    Effective Completion Date



    December 1, 2013

     Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format.


    June 1, 2015

    December 1, 2015

    Comply with all modified provisions of the final standard, except:

    Distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015.

    Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers

    June 1, 2016

    Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as  necessary and provide additional employee training for newly-identified physical or health hazards.


    Transition Period

    Comply with either 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200
    (the revised final standard) or the current


    The final standard can be found on OSHA’s website. Compliance guidance on the new standard, including an OSHA Fact Sheet and OSHA Quick Cards, can be found on the agency’s website as well.