Remarks Prepared For
To Announce a Proposal to Modify the Hazard Communication Standard to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
1:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 29, 2009
- Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for calling in. I would like to make a brief statement before I take your questions.
- I am pleased to announce that tomorrow OSHA is publishing in the Federal Register a proposal to align the Hazard Communication Standard with the provisions of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals - also known as GHS.
- This represents the work of decades of negotiations among international governments, industry and other stakeholders. GHS is a single harmonized system for classifying the hazards of chemicals and preparing labels and safety data sheets. Its primary benefit will be to increase safety through improved quality and consistency of information provided to chemical users - particularly employers and workers.
- OSHA's proposal to adopt the GHS will not change the framework and scope of the current Hazard Communication Standard but it will improve quality and consistency in how chemical hazards are classified and how chemicals are labeled.
- OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard, originally promulgated in 1983, altered practices in the workplace, and OSHA estimates that chemically-related acute injuries and illness dropped at least 42 % since its adoption.
- However, there are still workers falling ill or dying from exposure to hazardous chemicals. OSHA estimates, based on BLS data, that more than 50,000 workers became ill and 125 workers died due to acute chemical exposure in 2007. These numbers are dwarfed by chronic illnesses and fatalities that are estimated in the tens of thousands.
- OSHA believes that aligning the Hazard Communication Standard with the provisions of the GHS will improve the effectiveness of the standard and help to substantially improve worker safety and health. The GHS will provide a common system for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and it will specify hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets.
- With the GHS, labels will indicate chemical hazards through harmonized signal words, pictograms, and hazard statements for each hazard class and category. Safety Data Sheets will be in a standardized 16-section format. These changes to the existing standard will enhance worker comprehension, ensure appropriate handling and use of chemicals, and reduce chemically-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
- Having a standardized safety data sheet will also make it easier to locate important safety and health information not only for workers but for emergency response personnel.
- In addition to improving worker protection, uniform safety and data sheets and harmonized labels will also make it easier for employers to train workers on how to safely handle the wide range of chemicals shipped from various chemical manufacturers and importers.
- Finally, this proposal marks the first major health rulemaking of this Administration. It is the first of many steps in the months to come that will demonstrate OSHA's renewed commitment to an aggressive regulatory agenda - an agenda that builds on Secretary's Solis' vision of "Good Jobs for Everyone" and makes a significant impact on improving the safety and health of America's workers.
- Thank you for your attention. I will be happy to take your questions now.