On October 26, 2011, the Office of Management and Budget announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had submitted their Final Rule for the updated hazard communications (HAZCOM) program for review. Until now, anyone with hazardous chemicals in their workplace has been required to have a hazard communications program including labels on containers, material safety data sheets, and employee training. Unfortunately, until now employers have had to comply with regulations from OSHA, other federal agencies, and a number of foreign countries. The inconsistencies between the various laws are substantial enough that different labels and safety data sheets must often be used for the same product when it is marketed in different nations. The diverse and sometimes conflicting national and international requirements can create confusion among those who seek to use hazard information. Labels and safety data sheets may include symbols and hazard statements that are unfamiliar to readers or not well understood. Containers may be labeled with such a large volume of information that important statements are not easily recognized. Development of multiple sets of labels and safety data sheets is a major compliance burden for chemical manufacturers, distributors, and transporters involved in international trade.
The new HAZCOM program incorporates the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (“GHS”). GHS seeks to eliminate that confusion. The comprehensibility of hazard information and worker safety will be enhanced as the GHS will: (1) Provide consistent information and definitions for hazardous chemicals; (2) address stakeholder concerns regarding the need for a standardized format for material safety data sheets; and (3) increase understanding by using standardized pictograms and harmonized hazard statements. The increase in comprehensibility and consistency will reduce confusion and thus improve worker safety and health. In addition, the adoption of the GHS would reduce the burdens caused by having to comply with differing requirements for the same product, and allow companies that have not had the resources to deal with those burdens to be involved in international trade.
For more information on this rule or other regulations pertaining to the shipment of hazardous materials, please contact Ronce Almond at (202) 457-7790.