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Facts on Aligning the Hazard Communication Standard to the GHS

  • Proposal to modify the HCS to align with the GHS: OSHA is proposing to modify the current Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the provisions of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The HCS requires that chemical manufacturers and importers evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to downstream employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets. Under the current HCS all employers must have a hazard communication program for exposed workers, including container labels, safety data sheets, and training.

  • GHS: 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 standardized approach to hazard classification, labels and safety data. The GHS provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. Under the GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements and safety data sheets would have standardized format. This system was agreed on at an international level by governments, industry, and labor, and adopted by the UN in 2002 with a goal of 2008 for implementation.

  • Why modify the HCS: OSHA's proposal to adopt the GHS will not change the framework and scope of the current HCS but will help ensure improved quality and more consistency in the classification and labeling of all chemicals. This will enhance worker comprehension, resulting in appropriate handling and use of chemicals. The harmonized format of the safety data sheets will enable workers to access the information more efficiently. In addition, currently multiple labels and safety data sheets must often be developed for the same product when shipped to different countries. This creates a major compliance burden for chemical manufacturers and those involved in international trade, increasing the cost of providing hazard information. The adoption of GHS will minimize this burden.

  • Major proposed changes to the HCS:
    • Hazard classification: Provides 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.
    • Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
    • Information and training: The GHS does not address training. However, the proposed HCS will require that workers are trained within two years of the publication of the final rule to facilitate recognition and understanding of the new labels and safety data sheets.

  • Number of workers affected by the proposed HCS: Over 40 million workers

  • Affected Industries: Over 5 million workplaces

  • Impact of the proposed HCS: The costs associated with compliance with the proposed revisions to the HCS would generally be incurred by the affected industries as one-time transition costs over the phase-in period of three years. The cost includes reclassification of all chemicals, additional training of workers on the new label elements and SDS format, and familiarization of the modified HCS standard. Aside from the transition costs, the ongoing annual compliance costs associated with the proposed revisions to the HCS generally are expected to be the same or lower than under the existing standard.

  • Annualized compliance costs of the proposed standard: Approximately $97 million per year
    • OSHA estimates that the cost of classifying chemical hazards in accordance with the GHS criteria and revising safety data sheets and labels to meet new format and content requirements would be $11 million a year on an annualized basis for an estimated 90,000 establishments.
    • OSHA estimates that training for workers to become familiar with new warning symbols and the revised safety data sheet format under GHS would cost $44 million a year on an annualized basis for all affected workplaces.
    • Although not a requirement in the proposed rule, OSHA estimated annualized costs of $42 million a year for management to become familiar with the new GHS system and to engage in other management-related activities as may be necessary for industry's adoption of GHS

  • Benefits of the proposed standard: OSHA estimates that the revised standard will prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses annually. The annualized monetized benefits associated with these reductions in safety and health risks are an estimated $266 million a year. OSHA estimates additional annualized benefits of $585 million a year from cost reductions and productivity improvements attributable to the proposed revisions. In total, OSHA estimates that the proposed revisions will provide net annualized savings of $754 million a year.

  • Comment Period: OSHA is allowing 90 days for the comment period. Interested parties can submit their comments by mail, facsimile or electronically. OSHA welcomes questions on all relevant issues of this proposed rulemaking including hazard classification, economic impacts and specifically impacts on small businesses, other affected standards, outreach, and finally alternative approaches.

  • Public Hearings: OSHA will be conducting informal public hearings and will publish a separate federal register notice on the date and location(s) for the hearings.

  • Major Stakeholders: Comments for the ANPR were received from a broad range of stakeholders. The comments were received primarily from chemical manufacturers, users and trade associations. Other interested parties are government (federal, state and local), emergency responders, transporters, unions, consultants, individuals, and others.

  • Future updates of the HCS: The GHS is updated as necessary to reflect new technology and scientific developments, or provide explanatory text. This proposed rule is based on Revision 3, published in 2009. OSHA anticipates that future updates of the HCS will be necessary and can be done through various rulemaking options:
    • Technical updates: for minor terminology changes
    • Direct Final Rules: for text clarification
    • Notice and Comment rulemaking: for more substantive or controversial updates such as additional or changes in health or safety hazard classes or categories

  • Other U.S. Agencies: The Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) were actively involved in developing the GHS. DOT has already modified their requirements for classification and labeling to make it consistent with international UN transport requirements and the GHS.