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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the final revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in the Federal Register back in 2012. OSHA is in the process of conforming to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) for enhanced employee protection. The first deadline, December 1, 2013, is approaching.
The revised HCS, referred to as HazCom 2012, is expected to affect every workplace in the U.S. that is exposed to hazardous chemicals, which is nearly 5 million facilities. OSHA estimates that the revised standard will save an extra 43 lives each year, and American businesses will additionally save an approximated $475.2 million as a result of greater productivity.
The four major revisions to the Hazard Communication Standard consist of:
Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the dangers of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification, with the updated standard, will provide specific criteria to address health and physical threats as well as classification of chemical mixtures.
The new requirement states that labels will contain a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and a precautionary message for each hazard class and category.
Under the new regulation, hazards will be communicated through a set of 16 different hazard categories, including a new category called “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified.”
To support awareness and ensure understanding, employers will be required to train workers by December 1, 2013, and full compliance with the final rule will be effective by the end of 2015, with some necessary employer updates to labels and training continuing until June 1, 2016.
For the December 1 deadline, employers must train their employees on the new label elements and the standard 16-section SDS format. During the introduction period, employers are permitted to follow the existing HCS, the revised HCS, or both. OSHA recognizes that hazard communication programs will go through a transition period when labels and SDSs under both standards may appear in the workplace. This will be considered acceptable, and employers will not be required to uphold two sets of labels and SDSs to comply.