OSHA Revised Hazard Communications Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised Hazard Communication Standards (HCS) pertaining to properly labeling hazardous chemicals. Essentially, the goal is to give employees worldwide a better understanding of the hazards associated with chemicals in the workplace through the use of more consistent definitions and standard pictograms.

Major Hazard Communication Standard changes

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS): (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS) SDSs will now have a specified 16-section format.
  • Information and training: Employers are required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.

All employers using hazardous chemicals in the workplace must comply with the changes made to the SDS--including the new specified 16-section format--and should be aware of OSHA’s training expectations and strategies for meeting the Hazard Communication Standard.

OSHA required employees to be trained on the new label elements (i.e., pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and signal words) and SDS format by December 1, 2013.

Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as necessary by June 1, 2016. They must also provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

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