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New Hazard Communication Standard is Official

The Federal Department of Occupational Safety has announced the new hazard communication standard, featuring the implementation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), will be published in the Federal Register March 26 and become law May 25,2012.

The implementation of the GHS will align OSHA’s hazard communication standard with the United Nations’ chemical labeling system and better protect workers, according to OSHA.

“OSHA’s 1983 Hazard Communication Standard gave workers the right to know. As one participant expressed during our rulemaking process, this update will give them the right to understand, as well,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

According to an OSHA news release the revised standard also is expected to prevent an estimated 585 injuries and illnesses annually. It will reduce trade barriers and result in estimated annualized benefits in productivity improvements for American businesses that regularly handle, store and use hazardous chemicals, as well as cost savings of $32.2 million for American businesses that periodically update safety data sheets and labels for chemicals covered under the standard.

“Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious dangers facing American workers today,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Revising OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard will improve the quality, consistency and clarity of hazard information that workers receive, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive in the global marketplace.”

The implementation of the standard is scheduled to span the next several years, coming to complete fruition in 2016.

During the transition period to the effective completion dates noted in the standard, chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers may comply with either 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.1200 (the final standard), the current standard or both.

Important deadline of the standard implementation include:
December 1, 2013
All employers that use, handle, store chemicals                
Train employees about the new chemical labels and safety data sheets or SDSs (formally material safety data sheets or MSDSs).
June 1, 2015
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors
Must comply with all the requirements of the GHS rule, except voluntary compliance with GHS label until December 1, 2015.
December 1, 2015
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors
All shipments of chemical containers must include the GHS-compliant label (signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement).
June 1, 2016
All employers that use, handle, store chemicals
Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

The final rule revising the standard is available at http://s.dol.gov/P1*.

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