OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Changes Set for 2013

January 2, 2013

By Brad Harmon, HunterMaclean

Special to Business in Savannah

Changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard are on the horizon for employers in 2013.

New requirements regarding OSHA Hazard Communications, which will start to take effect next year, are designed to bring the United States into alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, improving safety and providing additional health protection for America’s workers. The new system is also being implemented by Canada, the European Union, China, Australia and Japan.

Once fully implemented in the U.S., the new hazard communication system will enhance worker comprehension of job site hazards, provide workers with quicker access to safety data sheet information and reduce trade barriers by making the American system compliant with similar systems already in place around the world.

OSHA’s current Hazard Communication Standard (enacted in 1983) will be revised to help prevent on-the-job injuries and illnesses. The previous standard allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to convey hazard-related information on labels and material safety data sheets in whatever format they deemed appropriate.

The new modified standard provides a single set of standardized criteria for classifying chemicals and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. Safety data sheets will be modified to include 16 sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important information. In addition, employers will be required to disclose exposure limits established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and carcinogen status from nationally and internationally-recognized lists of carcinogens on the safety data sheets. Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label including “a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and precautionary statement” for each hazard class and category.

Information and training sessions will be required to facilitate understanding of the new system before the federally-mandated deadline of December 1, 2013. Between June 1, 2015 and December 1, 2015, chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must comply with all modified provisions of the final rule.

The new standard will affect more than 43 million workers who produce or handle hazardous chemicals in more than five million workplaces across the country. OSHA has already announced that it expects this latest modification to help prevent more than 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually.

Violating OSHA regulations can result in steep fines for companies, so be sure to stay on top of the latest laws and current requirements for employers. An experienced attorney can provide guidance through the new government-prescribed regulations, helping to ensure compliance with OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard in 2013 and beyond.

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