By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
You will be seeing new hazard warning labels on all your shop chemicals over the next few years, and that includes refrigerants. The U.S Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have announced adoption of revised standards which will align with the United Nations’ “Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.”
OSHA’s harmonized standard will ensure that workers have access not only to labels and safety data sheets, but also to information that is easier to find and understand through the use of standardized formats and label elements: signal words, pictograms, hazard statements, and precautionary statements.
The agency noted that under the current system, multiple labels and safety data sheets must often be developed for the same product when shipped to different countries. This creates a major compliance burden for chemical manufacturers and those involved in international trade, increasing the cost of providing hazard information.
Here are excerpts from OSHA’s announcement.
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The right to know
Chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity). OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), first issued in 1983, is designed to ensure that employers provide information about these hazards and associated protective measures to their workers.
This is accomplished by requiring chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and to provide information about them through labels on shipped containers and more detailed information sheets called safety data sheets or SDSs (formerly known as MSDS. –ed).
All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program, and must ensure that all containers are labeled, workers are provided access to SDSs, and an effective training program is conducted for all potentially exposed workers.
The right to understand
Workers have sometimes had difficulty understanding information presented on safety data sheets (SDSs). In some cases the length and complexity of the documents have made it difficult for workers to locate important safety information.
New labels will contain essential information in a standard format.
What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)?
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets.
The GHS is not a regulation or a standard, but a set of recommendations that a competent authority such as OSHA can adopt. The GHS is being implemented around the world in countries such as Australia, the EU, and China. This helps to ensure the safe use of chemicals as they move through the product life cycle and around the world.
Why modify HCS?
OSHA’s adoption of the GHS won’t change the framework and scope of the current Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), but will help ensure improved quality and more consistency of hazard information in the workplace.
Aligning the HCS with the GHS will enhance worker comprehension of hazards, especially for low and limited-literacy workers, reduce confusion, and facilitate safety training.
Benefits of harmonization
Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today. Benefits to workers and members of the public include consistent, simplified communications on chemical hazards, safe handling practices, greater awareness of hazards, and overall safer use of chemicals.
Benefits to employers include safer work environments, improved relations with workers, increased efficiency, reduced costs of compliance, and expanded use of training programs on health and safety.
What do the new pictograms look like?
There are nine pictograms under the GHS to convey the health, physical and environmental hazards. The final Hazard Communication Standard requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, as environmental hazards are not within OSHA’s jurisdiction.
The U.N. program is being adopted worldwide. Standard pictographs can identify hazards without regard to language or literacy.
What employers need to do and when (effective dates)
Employers must train workers on the new label elements and SDS format by December 1, 2013. Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers must comply with all modified provisions of the final rule by June 1, 2015.
However, distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015. By June 1, 2016, employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as necessary, and provide additional worker training for new identified physical and health hazards.
You can find details and more information at www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/index.html
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