How Proposed OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Changes Will Impact Businesses
September 7, 2022
For the past 10 years, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200) has been among the top five most frequently cited standards following workplace inspections. The most-cited parts of the standard address having a documented program, conducting effective training and making up-to-date safety data sheets available to employees.
OSHA is considering making changes to the standard that could impact many industries and employers.
Hazard Communication Standard Has Changed Over Time
The Hazard Communication Standard went into effect in 1983. The purpose of this “right to know” standard was to ensure that workers knew what hazardous chemicals were present in the workplace.
In 2012, the standard was updated to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The standard was broadened to not only give employees the “right to know” but also the “right to understand” the hazards of the chemicals and products employees are exposed to on the job. Changes required that communications be easier to understand.
In early 2021, OSHA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would update the standard to align with Revision 7 of the United Nations’ GHS. While it’s unknown when the proposed rulemaking will be voted on by Congress and signed into law, it’s worth knowing what is being considered.
Proposed Hazard Communication Standard Revisions
So, what are the proposed changes? The NPRM outlines the following:
- Expanding the flammable aerosols hazard class to include non-flammable aerosols. This will impact aerosol manufacturers’ safety data sheets and trickle down to all companies using those products. Employees will need updated safety data sheets for every aerosol product and chemical.
- Separating flammable gases in Category 1 into two classes: 1A for pyrophoric gases and chemically unstable gases and 1B for all others in the class.
- Creating a new hazard class for desensitized explosives to help express the significance of the hazards in the workplace when the desensitizing agent is removed. More training will be needed to help employees understand the importance of properly handling the product.
The current proposal does not affect labeling for workplace use. Systems such as GHS, Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) or National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are acceptable if the labels provide access to all the information on the shipped container label.
Rules for labeling individual small containers prepared for shipping have also been reviewed. If manufacturers, importers and distributors can demonstrate that it is not feasible to use pull-out labels, fold-back or tags to provide the complete label information, the proposal suggests they be allowed to use abbreviated labels for containers of 100 ml or less. However, the abbreviated label would need to contain the product identifier, pictogram(s), signal word, chemical manufacturer’s name and phone number, and a statement that complete label information is provided on the immediate outer package.
Why OSHA Is Proposing Changes
OSHA believes that the proposed revisions will “reduce costs and burdens while also improving the quality and consistency of information provided to employers and employees regarding chemical hazards and associated protective measures.” For employers, effective training and making understandable and up-to-date information available to employees will remain a core component of complying with this safety standard.
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The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.
Beverlie is a Risk Advisor within Hylant’s Risk Management Practice. She has 20 years of experience in environmental, health and safety within automotive, food manufacturing, agriculture, education, Japanese and Chinese companies and life sciences. She has directly reduced incident rates with corrective action follow-up, and improved communications and employee engagement in the execution of safety programs in these industries.