Q. Is there any specific definition for “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified” under the new GHS rule? Also, what rules apply to them?
A. With the incorporation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) into the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) regulations, companies are faced with revisiting established classifications of their hazardous chemicals.
According to OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard, employers must identify all hazardous chemicals in the workplace and communicate the hazards of these chemicals to employees. While the GHS revisions added criteria for a few new hazards (asphyxiants, pyrophoric gases, combustible dusts, etc.), they did not remove any of the old physical and health hazards (explosives, flammable liquids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives, carcinogens) from the standard.
One of the more confusing new categories is referred to as “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified” (HNOC). This category exists to catch workplace hazards that have not yet been defined in the regulations. Under OSHA’s reasoning, employers still have an obligation to protect employees from hazardous chemicals, even when the chemical doesn’t fit in an officially defined hazard classification.
OSHA’s definition of Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOCs):
“Hazard not otherwise classified (HNOC) means an adverse physical or health effect identified through evaluation of scientific evidence during the classification process that does not meet the specified criteria for the physical and health hazard classes addressed in this section.” [1910.1200(c)]
If scientific evidence has proven that something has a physical or health hazard, you need to identify the chemical and cover it in your HazCom program. This does make some sense, because OSHA cannot possibly identify every dangerous hazard in the workplace. The rule acts as a way to still pull in chemicals that OSHA did not think of. It’s a specific case of the General Duty Clause [29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)] as applied to the HazCom Standard.
One other important aspect of HNOCs is also pointed out in the latter part of its definition:
“This does not extend coverage to adverse physical and health effects for which there is a hazard class addressed in this section, but the effect either falls below the cut-off value/concentration limit of the hazard class or is under a GHS hazard category that has not been adopted by OSHA (e.g., acute toxicity Category 5).”
In essence, OSHA is forbidding businesses from overregulating hazards that they have already identified as hazardous. For instance, flammable liquids are defined as any liquids with a flash point less than 200°F. If a business had a chemical with a flash point of, say, 230°F, employers would not be able to call it “flammable” just to be safe.
OSHA has not yet identified any specific HNOCs. However, if a company finds that one of its products meets the definition of an HNOC, then they must communicate that hazard to their employees. This will be done through additional training for employees, and the hazards must be addressed on Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). However, HNOCs do not have to be labeled, as none of the extant labels would apply. [29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1)]
How are you preparing your facility and personnel for OSHA’s GHS rule? Share your comments.