News Release USDL: 97-118
Thursday, April 3, 1997
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming,(202) 219-8151
OSHA Seeks Comments On International Hazard Communication
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is
seeking public comment until June 2 on how best to give workers
and employers worldwide the information they need to recognize
and cope with chemical hazards.
Working with other federal agencies and several
international organizations, OSHA is part of a global effort to
develop a new, unified hazard communication system targeted for
completion in the year 2000. The new system would replace a
current patchwork of conflicting and diverse national and
international requirements. Adopting a common format for
placards, labels, material safety data sheets and symbols would
ensure that chemical users around the world know what they are
working with and how to protect themselves against risks.
The universal approach also will enhance international trade
since companies could use one labeling system rather than
contending with several different ones for the U.S., the European
Union, Canada and other countries. Establishing a consistent
worldwide system calls for compromise and likely will require
some changes in U.S. regulatory requirements for hazard
classification and labeling.
Under the auspices of agreements made during the 1992 United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development, international
organizations are focusing on three major issues: criteria for
health and environmental hazards; criteria for physical hazards;
and components of a hazard communication system (e.g., labels and
materials safety data sheets).
Public input on the following issues is specifically
Is chemical hazard information being received for chemicals
currently imported into the U.S. and is it understandable
and sufficient to meet OSHA requirements?
Do U.S. firms have the information they need to meet
foreign labeling and hazard information requirements?
What regulatory changes will be necessary to permit
U.S. participation in an international chemical hazard communication system?
How much time will the U.S. need to phase-in changes?
How should legitimate confidential business information
be balanced with the protection of those exposed to chemicals?
What kind of problems and attendant costs are U.S.
businesses encountering in dealing with foreign
suppliers and customers now?
Comments, in four copies or one hard copy and one 3 1/2 inch
disk in Word Perfect 5.1, 6.1 or ASCII text, should be sent to
Office of Environmental Policy, Attn: David Rabadan, U.S.
Department of State, OES/ENV Room 4325, 2201 C St., N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20520. Submissions must be postmarked no later
than June 2.
A State Department notice--on behalf of the various U.S.
agencies involved--which explains the effort to develop a
consistent, worldwide hazard communication system and requesting
public comment is scheduled to appear in the April 3 Federal