Last year, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communications Standard, which governs chemical labeling and employee training for hazardous chemical use in the workplace. The revision adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), which was developed by the United Nations to create a uniform international classification and labeling system for hazardous chemicals. The primary benefit of the GHS is to increase the quality and consistency of information provided to workers, employers and chemical users by adopting a standard worldwide approach to hazard classification, labels and safety data. Under the GHS, labels must include signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements. Safety data sheets must also have a standardized format.

To help employers comply with the transition to GHS, OSHA is phasing in the specific requirements of the revised standard over several years – from December 1, 2013 through June 1, 2016. The initial compliance date is December 1, 2013, wherein employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace are required to complete initial training regarding the revised standard. This initial training must provide employees with training on the new:

  • Label elements (product identifiers; signal works; pictograms; hazard statements; precautionary statements; and the name, address and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, distributor or importer); and
  • Safety data sheet (SDS) format.

This initial December 1, 2013 deadline was set to ensure that employees are intimately familiar with the new labels and SDS format as they begin to arrive in respective workplaces in early 2014. Employers are reminded to provide this training in a manner and language that all of their employees can understand. For instance, if employers customarily communicate work instructions or other workplace information to employees in a language other than English, they will also need to provide safety and health training to employees in the same manner. Similarly, an employer must account for the poor vocabulary or illiteracy of their employees. Additional information can be found at http://www.osha.gov.