On March 20, 2012, OSHA announced that it was revising its hazard communication regulations to make them more consistent with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS regulations have been adopted by many countries worldwide, and OSHA intends this action to result in more consistency amongst international chemical labeling and the reduction of trade barriers. In particular, the GHS regulations impose a more prescriptive and formal process for hazard determination; require product labeling that includes signal words, pictograms, hazard statements and precautionary statements; implement a new format for material safety data sheets with 16 required sections; and require training on the new elements of OSHA's hazard communication program. OSHA's GHS regulations will not be fully implemented until 2016.
These regulations are certainly not without controversy. Many of the regulatory requirements conflict with pesticide labeling requirements under FIFRA, so EPA has issued a Pesticide Registration Notice, PR Notice 2012-1, to guide pesticide registrants on complying with competing EPA and OSHA regulations. This guidance is intended to be an interim measure until the regulations can be harmonized. Several industry groups have also filed lawsuits against OSHA challenging the GHS regulations. These groups include the American Petroleum Institute, the American Tort Reform Association, CropLife America, and a coalition of five groups including the American Chemistry Council. Each lawsuit alleges various complaints with OSHA's adoption of the GHS regulations. CropLife America's challenge specifically related to the pesticide labeling issue referenced above, while one of the American Chemistry Council's complaints centers around the classification of combustible dust.