• OSHA Overhauls Hazard Communication Standard
  • January 14, 2013 | Author: Jane M. Shields
  • Law Firm: MacElree Harvey, Ltd. - West Chester Office
  • Any employer whose workplace potentially exposes employees to hazardous materials needs to be aware of the changes in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), often referred to as a “right to know” workplace regulation intended to protect employees from hazards on the job. The revised HCS will be phased in, beginning in 2013.

    The most visible parts of this standard are the labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s) that accompany hazardous materials. The format of these, the latter now called Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s), will be revised to conform to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). For the first time, there will be a uniform format for the labels and sheets.

    The first component of the changes to the HCS requires employers to include the revised labels and sheets in their hazard communication program, and to complete training of employees on the revisions to labels and sheets by December 31, 2013.  In OSHA’s one-size-fits-all approach, these requirements apply to all employers whose employees may come into contact with hazardous materials.

    The new labels and sheets will have 12 mandatory sections and four optional sections to provide information to employers, employees, first responders and others who may come in contact with hazards.  To view a sample label, visit: www.osha.gov/Publications/HazComm-QuickCard-Labels.html.

    Manufacturers will be required to think through how they re-arrange their materials into hazard classes and categories under the revised HCS.  There is no requirement that the manufacturers test any of their chemicals, but they are expected to consult the “full range of available scientific literature and other evidence concerning the potential hazards.”  One may imagine how many issues may flow from this single provision over the coming years.