Changes to Hazardous Chemical Communications
To better protect workers from hazardous chemicals, OSHA has adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The hazardous chemicals that come into your facility will, as of December 1, 2015, all have labels that conform to the worldwide GHS standard. Prior to that date, many chemical manufacturers are adopting the standard labeling. As an employer, you were to have trained all of your workers on the meaning of the symbols by December 1, 2013 (a date that has now passed, so if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to get this accomplished!).
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The new labels on hazardous chemicals and substances incorporate very specific graphical symbols, each meant to convey one or more hazards related to chemicals. They also include mandatory statements that have been individually assigned to each type of hazard that describes the hazard and appropriate precautionary avoidance statements. Because OSHA has formally written the GHS principles into their hazard communication standards – with the “right to know” laws – compliance is mandatory. The new legislation is expected to better protect workers from harm because, as OSHA has stated, we are giving employees more than just the “right to know,” we are giving them the “right to understand.” And, we agree! The new labeling, and accompanying safety data sheets (SDS), more clearly communicate for several reasons, not the least of which is their use of visually eye-catching graphical symbols. Your job, as an employer, is to train your workers on the meaning of the GHS symbols and to make the location of your SDS known.
GHS and Global Communication
In our view, the most important aspect of OSHA adopting the GHS regulations into our nation’s workplace safety laws for hazardous chemical communication is that it reinforces everything Clarion Safety has instilled into the safety signs and safety labels we sell for all potential hazards. These features include:
- Standardized formatting with intelligently chosen signal words based on risk assessment
- The use of standardized graphical symbols to bring noticeability to safety signs and labels and to communicate a portion of the message across language barriers
- The use of color to draw attention to a safety sign or safety label (the GHS symbols have a red diamond surround shape)
- Conveying both hazard description and hazard avoidance information (also known as “hazard statements” and “precautionary statements” according to GHS)
OSHA’s Completion Dates for Compliance
- December 1, 2013: Employers must train employees on the new label elements and SDS format.
- June 1, 2015: Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers must comply with all modified provisions of this final rule.
- December 1, 2015: Distributors shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label.
- June 1, 2016: Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.
How Can Clarion Safety Help with GHS?
We’ve developed an information sign and binder for your use to identify the location of your GHS-related materials. The sign also functions as an educational tool to train your workers on the GHS pictograms and labels.