Global Harmonization is Almost Here!
By Barb Garrison, M.S., CHMM
Wouldn’t it be great if “global harmonization” meant that all the nations on Earth had agreed to make peace and had promised to respect one another? Well, that’s not what “global harmonization” means to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)!
On March 20th, a final rule was published in the Federal Register effectively modifying OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align it with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (known as the Globally Harmonized System or GHS). As you’ll recall from the many OSHA training classes you’ve attended over the years, the HCS helps ensure chemical safety in the workplace by (1) requiring chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers, and (2) by requiring all employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces to have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and to train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.
The GHS is an international approach to hazard communication, providing agreed criteria for classification of chemical hazards, and a standardized approach to label elements and safety data sheets. The GHS was negotiated in a multi-year process by hazard communication experts from many different countries, international organizations, and stakeholder groups. It is based on major existing systems around the world, including OSHA's HCS. Major changes to the HCS include the following:
- Hazard classification: There will now be specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
- Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided. Examples of some of the new pictograms include:
Safety Data Sheets: These will now have a specified 16-section format.
Information and training: Employers will be required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.
For more information on changes to the HCS, go to the following link: http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/index.html.
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