As our friends at the Environmental and Safety Law Update have been reporting (herehere, and here), December 1, 2013 marks the date that employers must begin complying with OSHA’s new Hazard Communication (HazCom) standard.

With the new HazCom standard, adopted in 2012, OSHA seeks to improve employees’ understanding of the health and physical hazards associated with chemical substances and also to align the requirements for communicating those hazards with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (“GHS”), the United Nations’ standardized approach to elements of hazard communication.

Along with OSHA’s adoption of the GHS standards comes the following changes:

  • Safety Data Sheets:  Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are now known as Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).  SDSs must meet a specified 16-section format.
  • Hazard Classification Chemical manufacturers must follow one and only one procedure for classifying health and physical hazards of chemicals. This procedure is now known as a “hazard classification.” Under the old standard, chemical manufacturers had to perform a hazard determination of the chemicals they manufactured. They could follow any number of procedures for conducting a hazard determination as long as they accurately determined the hazards.
  • LabelsThe new standard is more prescriptive and sets forth exactly what information must be on a label. This information must be conveyed through pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, and precautionary statements.  Under the old standard, labels had to provide the identity of the chemical and appropriate hazard warnings, which could be done by various means as long as the necessary information was conveyed to the chemical user.

When do you need to comply?

NOW! December 1, 2013 is the deadline by which employers must train employees on the new label elements and SDS format.

The next major deadline is June 1, 2015, which is when employers must comply with all new HazCom standard requirements. By December 1, 2015, chemical distributors must stop shipping containers with non-GHS labels. Finally, June 1, 2016 is the deadline for employers to update workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as necessary and to provide employee training for any new physical or health hazards identified by a hazard classification.

As always, we will keep you apprised of the these deadlines as they approach.