OSHA's Next GHS HazCom Update Coming Soon?
OSHA now plans to release a Final Rule aligning the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with elements from the 7th revised edition of the GHS in Spring 2023.
Proposed changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) for chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers will impact labeling of chemical containers, hazard classification, Safety Data Sheet (SDS) requirements, and more.The proposed HCS update rule appeared in the Federal Register more than two years ago, on February 16, 2021, and was followed by a public comment period and an informal public hearing.
New: Labeling Small Containers
The proposed update would codify a number of existing OSHA interpretations related to labeling of containers that are too small to fit a full GHS-style label.
A new paragraph (f)(12) would allow for reduced information to appear on small containers when it is demonstrated that using a pull-out label, fold-back label, or tag is not feasible.
Containers less than or equal to 100 ml capacity would require:
- a product identifier,
- signal word,
- chemical manufacturers’ name and phone number, and
- a statement that the full label information is provided on the immediate outer package.
For containers less than or equal to 3 ml capacity, OSHA would require only the product identifier to appear on the immediate container (such as a vial). Shippers would have to demonstrate that “any label would interfere with the normal use of the container.”
OSHA also proposes to require the immediate outer package to include:
- Full label information, and
- a statement indicating that the smaller containers inside must be stored in the immediate outer package when not in use.
In the proposed rule, OSHA offered and requested comment on two alternatives to the new provisions for labeling small containers.
New: GHS Labels on Bulk Chemical Shipments
For bulk shipments, OSHA would allow for labels to be placed on the immediate container, like is currently required, or be transmitted with shipping papers or bills of lading (or electronically) as long as the label is available to workers in printed form at the receiving end of the shipment.
This would be added to paragraph (f)(5). That paragraph would be re-titled “Transportation.”
New: Updating Hazard Labels
When a chemical manufacturer, importer, distributor, or employer learns significant new information about the hazards of a chemical, paragraph (f)(11) requires them to update container labels within 6 months.
Under the proposed rule, chemical containers that have been “released for shipment” and are awaiting distribution would not need to be re-labeled. Manufacturers and importers would still be required to provide updated labels for all containers with each shipment.
New: HCS Hazard Classes & Categories
The proposed rule would add one new hazard class: Desensitized explosives.
Three new hazard categories would be added as well. Under the Flammable Gases class, OSHA would add categories for unstable gases and pyrophoric gases. Under the Aerosols class, OSHA would add a category for nonflammable aerosols.
OSHA is also proposing to add a new sentence to the hazard classification requirements in 29 CFR 1910.1200(d)(1) that would require the classification to include "any hazards associated with a change in the chemical's physical form or resulting from a reaction with other chemicals under normal conditions of use."
New: Trade Secrets on Safety Data Sheets
OSHA proposes two significant changes concerning trade secrets that may appear on a Safety Data Sheet.
The proposed rule would allow manufacturers, importers, and employers to withhold a chemical’s concentration range as a trade secret. Secondly, when a chemical’s actual concentration or concentration range is withheld as a trade secret, OSHA proposes to require the use of “prescriptive concentration ranges” instead (the same ranges currently required in Canada).
OSHA also requested comment on whether the Agency should adopt a set schedule for updating the HCS in the future, such as updating the HCS every four years or updating after every two GHS revisions.
What is Hazard Communication and GHS?
OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is found at 29 CFR 1910.1200 and requires employers to inform workers about the hazards of chemicals in their workplace using mandatory training, Safety Data Sheets, and a written hazard communication program.
The HCS also imposes requirements for chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors related to classifying chemicals, labeling containers, and providing information about chemical hazards to downstream users (such as employers).
OSHA revised the HCS in 2012 to adopt provisions from the Globally Harmonized System of Classifying and Labeling Chemicals (GHS). This rulemaking introduced a 16-section Safety Data Sheet, new labeling requirements, and new hazard classification criteria for the US chemical industry.
The “Globally Harmonized System” or GHS is developed by the United Nations and provides a model that nations can use to enhance chemical safety domestically. The GHS is not an international law—countries can choose to adopt some or all of these “global” provisions.
Hazard Communication or “HazCom” training is required for all employees who work with or may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. Training must prepare employees to recognize chemical hazards by reading labels and Safety Data Sheets, and cover other required elements (29 CFR 1910.1200(h)).
For tips to write a workplace hazard communication program to comply with the HCS, check out this blog: What’s In a Written Hazard Communication Program?
The soon-to-be-final Rule is listed under Rule ID Number AC93 as part of OSHA's most recent regulatory agenda records.
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