Chemicals in the workplace are a very serious issue and can result in serious harm or injury to workers, as well as hefty fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if not labeled or handled correctly. In the United States, OSHA addresses such concerns with the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which regulates employers to place a descriptive warning label on chemical containers with information sheets about their use, called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). However, these MSDSs do not translate well between other countries; often, different countries had their own unique equivalents of MSDSs, creating confusion about the handling procedures and contents of chemical containers that travel across borders, even with trained employees.
That's why 2013 is a big year for safety professionals in the areas of chemical safety and compliance all around the world. This is the year to get the new system of chemical classification, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), into your workplace.
It has been over a year since OSHA formally solidified the GHS in the Federal Register, allowing the Hazard Communication Standard to align with GHS. The revised HCS went into effect in May 2012 and the first GHS-related compliance deadline is December 1, 2013.
GHS was created to provide a common, coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets across all countries and industries. It has been adopted by 65 countries so far, including the United States and Canada. With the goal of improving worker safety and the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, adopting these new standards affects everyone at all points within the chemical cycle – from manufacture to distribution to use –by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals."Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "Revising OSHA's Hazard Communication standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive."
Employers must produce new material labels reflecting GHS standards, create new safety data sheets, and develop new storage systems to ensure that chemicals can be stored and used safely. Even the name of the informational documents changes from MSDS to Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
Making the transition to the globally harmonized system isn't just optional. OSHA requires employers to teach their employees about the new standards within two years, and to be in full compliance with the guidelines within three years. HSI brand family member Summit Training Source offers GHS training for employees providing instruction on requirements for labeling and SDS.
Get your employees up to speed on the latest safety regulations, including the globally harmonized system. Together, let's make chemical safety a priority in the workplace.