Hazard Communication: Major Changes and Effective Dates

As you should know, in December of 2013 OSHA began implementing the Globally Harmonized System in which the information for hazardous materials is communicated consistently across all borders of the globe.  The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling Chemicals (GHS) is expected to prevent injuries and illnesses and improve the knowledge of hazards throughout the world because, let’s face it, the trade market has now moved to a global stage.  While the old Hazard Communication Standard was intended to give the employees the ‘right to know,’ the new GHS gives the employees the ‘right to understand.’

Let’s again review the major changes:

Hazard Classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new GHS provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards, as well as classification for chemical mixtures.

Labels:  Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category.

Safety Data Sheets:  The new SDS format requires 16 sections that must follow a certain order.

Effective Dates

December 1, 2013:  As of this date employers should have implemented and performed training on the new label elements and SDS format for all current and new employees. However, employees must still be trained to recognize chemical hazards under both the new and old systems. Chemicals may currently have labels using the new or old format, and may also be provided with a MSDS or SDS.

June 1, 2015:  As of this date chemical manufactures must begin producing chemicals with the new labels and SDS’s. Employers must continue to train new employees on the new and old system. Training must also be when new chemicals or processes involving chemicals are introduced, or new physical or health hazards have been identified. Chemicals produced prior to this date may still be shipped, stored or used under either the old or new system.

  • Distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015. Employers can continue to use previously purchased chemicals under the old system until June, 1 2016.

June 1, 2016:  Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and their hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

So what does all this mean? As of June 1, 2016 all chemicals produced, shipped, stored, and used must have the new label and SDS. Don’t wait until May, 31 2016 to start the full implementation process. Begin requesting SDS documents now, and start a new binder, but keep the old MSDS’s for possible reference in the future. Also, ask your current safety supplier for secondary labels to determine if they will be able to provide the new required labels. And, as always, continue to train employees on the hazards associated with chemicals at the workplace.