OSHA Releases New GHS Enforcement Memo

Posted on 3/7/2017 by Roger Marks

In a memo aimed at field staff who perform workplace safety inspections and issued in September but posted to OSHA’s website recently, OSHA provides useful guidance for chemical industry professionals tasked with maintaining compliance with the updated GHS Hazard Communication Standard, or 2012 HCS.

For employers, the main takeaway from this OSHA guidance may be an answer about re-labeling existing stock of chemical containers. OSHA makes it clear that employers “are allowed to maintain and use those containers with HCS 1994 labels.” As long as the labels are not removed of defaced, 1994 HCS-compliant labels are still acceptable in the workplace. That said, employers are still required to train employees on the new label elements.

GHS Guidance for Chemical Manufacturers and Importers

Chemical manufacturers and importers should be aware that HCS 2012-compliant (i.e., GHS) labels are required on all shipped containers as of June 1, 2015. If the manufacturer or importer can show that they “exercised reasonable diligence and good faith efforts to obtain hazard classification information from the upstream suppliers” but could not, they have until June 1, 2017 to update labels.

As we wrote about last year in OSHA Memo Shows How GHS Will Be Enforced, “good-faith efforts” should include attempting to find hazard information from alternate sources (e.g., chemical registries).

GHS Labeling for Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC)

In an update to previous guidance regarding the labels and Safety Data Sheets for Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC), OSHA clarifies that manufacturers, importers, and distributors may use non-GHS hazard symbols on labels and Safety Data Sheets, provided that “these symbols do not contradict or cast doubt on the information that is required. “

In addition, OSHA will permit the use of the exclamation mark pictogram for HNOCs if the label also indicates that the pictogram is being used for a hazard not otherwise classified (e.g., the words “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified” or “HNOC” appear below the exclamation mark pictogram.”

That said, the exclamation mark label may be used only once on a label. If it already appears as a required pictogram, it may not be used a second time to represent or describe the HNOC.

Listing Ingredients in Sections 3 and 8 of the SDS

The GHS enforcement memo goes on to clarify OSHA’s position on listing constituents or ingredients in sections 3 and 8 of a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Previously, OSHA stated that “The list of constituents in sections 3 and 8 must be the same.”

OSHA has clarified its position to say that “If a chemical ingredient is listed in section 3 of the SDS, it only needs to be listed in section 8 if there is a PEL, TLV, or other occupational exposure limit (OEL).”
Following this logic, any chemical listed in section 8 of the Safety Data Sheet due to an exposure limit must also appear in section 3.  

OSHA 2012 GHS pictogramsThe memo also discusses how OSHA treats “trade secrets” under its HazCom Standard, OSHA’s interpretation of the phrases “exposed under normal conditions of use or in a forseeable emergency,” and OSHA’s work with Health Canada to coordinate adoptions of more recent GHS editions.

See the full OSHA GHS memo here.

GHS Training for Managers and Employees

Have questions about how to update your site’s hazard communication plan to comply with OSHA’s updated GHS HazCom Standard?

For safety managers, Lion developed the Managing Hazard Communication Online Course. This 2-3 hour course guides you through the critical elements of a workplace HazCom plan, the new Safety Data Sheet, defining hazards under GHS, and more.

For employees, the Hazard Communication Online Course covers new GHS label elements, how to read new SDSs, and how to protect themselves from chemical hazards in your workplace.

Tags: GHS, hazard communication, HazCom, osha

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