For years, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (“HazCom”) has been the most standard most frequently cited against hotel and other hospitality employers. 

In FY 2011 37 hotel companies were cited for violations of the HazCom Standard, including, primarily, alleged failures to:

  1. maintain a written Hazard Communication Program;
  2. ensure each container of hazardous chemicals (such as cleaning agents) is labeled, tagged, or marked;
  3. maintain a complete set of Material Safety Data Sheets (“MSDS’s”) for each hazardous chemical at the workplace; and
  4. train employees in the written program and how to use MSDS’s

This important OSHA Standard, that has long impacted hospitality employers, received a major facelift last month. On March 26, 2012, OSHA issued a final rule that integrates the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (“GHS”) into OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (“HazCom”). 

The new HazCom Standard requires employers to classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards, and to adopt new, consistent formats for labels and Safety Data Sheets (“SDS’s”) for all chemicals manufactured or imported in the United States. According to Assistant Secretary Michaels, “OSHA's 1983 Hazard Communication Standard gave workers the right to know . . . this update will give them the right to understand.”

In preparing to implement the new HazCom Standard, below is a list of 10 important things employers need to know about the final rule. Look out for our article coming soon in EHS Today Magazine for a more detailed review of these 10 issues.

  1. Hazard Classification: The new HazCom Standard has specific criteria for classifying health and physical hazards into a hazard class and hazard category. The hazard class indicates the nature of hazard (e.g. flammability) and the hazard category is the degree of severity within each hazard class (e.g. four levels of flammability).
  2. Mixtures: Evaluating health hazards of mixtures is based on data for the mixture as a whole. If data on the mixture as a whole is not available, importers and manufacturers may extrapolate from data on ingredients and similar mixtures. 
  3. New Label Requirements: For each hazard class and category, chemical manufacturers and importers are required to provide common signal words, pictograms with red borders, hazard statements and precautionary statements. Product identifiers and supplier information are also required.  
  4. Safety Data Sheets: SDS’s replace MSDS’s, and the new Standard requires a standardized 16-section format for all SDSs to provide a consistent sequence for organizing the information.          
  5. Non-Mandatory Threshold Limit Values in SDSs: Employers are required to include in SDS’s the non-mandatory threshold limit values (TLV’s) developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, in addition to OSHA’s mandatory permissible exposure limits (“PEL’s”).
  6. Information and Training: Employers are required to train employees on the new label elements (e.g. signal words, pictograms, and hazard statements) and SDS format by December 1, 2013. 
  7. Other Effective Dates:  The table below shows the rolling effective dates of the new Standard:

Click here to view table

  1. Hazards Not Otherwise Classified: Hazards covered under the old HazCom Standard but not addressed by GHS are covered under a separate category called “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified” (“HNOC”). HNOC’s need only be disclosed on the SDS and not on labels.Notably, pyrophoric gases, simple asphyxiants, and combustible dust are not classified under the HNOC category. Rather, these chemicals are addressed individually in the new Standard. 
  2. No Preemption of State Tort Laws: The new HazCom Standard does not preempt state tort laws, which means that it will not limit personal injury lawsuits regarding chemical exposures, inadequate warnings on labels, and/or failure to warn. 
  3. Combustible Dust:  The final rule added combustible dust to the definition of “hazardous chemicals,” and thus, combustible dust hazards must be addressed on labels and SDSs. Although the new HazCom Standard expressly states that combustible dust is covered, OSHA failed to define combustible dust, which will likely create substantial confusion and uncertainty for employers.