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OSHA Trade Release
March 16, 2004
Contact: Layne Lathram
Phone: 202-693-1999


OSHA Launches Hazard Communication Initiative
Compliance Assistance, Enforcement Will Improve Workplace Hazard Communication

WASHINGTON -- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, today announced a new initiative to focus attention on hazard communication in the workplace, following an Agency review of current issues. Consisting of compliance assistance and enforcement components, it is aimed at improving the quality of hazard communication and helping employers and employees comply with the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The HCS, adopted 20 years ago, covers some 650,000 hazardous chemical products and more than 30 million American workers. An attached fact sheet provides more details on the initiative.

"Appropriate and accurate hazard communication is essential to safe chemical management programs in the workplace," said Assistant Secretary Henshaw. "Employers need good information to design protective programs for their employees, and employees need the same information to protect themselves. This initiative will help improve that process."

Compliance assistance is a key component of the initiative. OSHA has developed a new page on the agency's website which contains compliance assistance materials, OSHA's review of the issues, and draft documents for public comment:
  • Hazard Determination Guidance will help chemical manufacturers and importers identify the right information, assess it and translate it into a proper hazard determination. This is posted for public comment on the Hazard Communication page on OSHA's website.
  • Model Training Program provides guidance for developing and conducting an employee training program, including a number of slides that employers can adapt to their workplaces. This is also posted for comment.
  • Guidance for Preparation of MSDSs will be posted for comment after comment periods close for the first two documents. It will address accuracy and comprehensibility of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and will suggest sources of information and types of information to include. Chemical manufacturers and importers must develop MSDSs on each product they identify as hazardous.
Education and outreach are vital to compliance assistance efforts. OSHA has formed an Alliance with the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC), a professional society that focuses on hazard communication issues. OSHA and SCHC will work together to produce several products for this initiative, including a course for small businesses on preparation of MSDSs; development of a training program for OSHA compliance staff on review of MSDS information; and development of a checklist to use to review MSDSs for the inclusion of certain information will be made available on OSHA's website. OSHA will also work with other Alliance Program participants to provide outreach on this issue.

In addition, internationally developed and peer reviewed International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSCs), are available on OSHA's website to use as a screening tool for reviewing MSDSs. They cover more than 1300 substances and are available in multiple languages.

For the enforcement component of this initiative, Compliance Safety and Health Officers will use sample hazard information on selected chemicals to check the accuracy of MSDSs. Deficiencies will be brought to the attention of the party responsible for supplying the MSDS, and failure to make corrections may result in the issuance of citations.

OSHA is also evaluating the adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), and preparing a guide to increase awareness of the GHS. Adoption of the GHS in the United States could improve the quality of MSDSs and labels.


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FACT SHEET
OSHA'S HAZARD COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE

There are two components to OSHA's hazard communication initiative: compliance assistance and enforcement. Both are targeted at improving the quality of hazard communication in the nation's workplaces.

Compliance Assistance
Compliance assistance is the way to help employers develop better and more accurate hazard communication programs. OSHA believes further efforts are necessary to enhance the quality of hazard information provided to employers and employees. The Agency is providing substantive guidance materials, an alliance with the key professional society in this field, and establishing a portal page on hazard communication on its website to consolidate materials available on hazard communication. Key aspects of the compliance assistance portion of the initiative include:
  • New page on OSHA's web site that will bring together material on Hazard Communication from OSHA's web site as well as links to other useful material. In addition, several OSHA documents, listed below, will be posted for public comment on the web page.

  • Hazard Determination Guidance addresses the process of hazard determination and helps chemical manufacturers and importers who must make such a determination identify the right information, assess it and translate it into a proper hazard determination. The intent of this document is to provide guidance on the process involved, and to identify considerations to be taken into account in the conduct of hazard determinations. Following this guidance should help preparers of MSDSs and labels ensure that the information they provide is complete and accurate. Comments on the draft guidance document are being solicited through OSHA's web page. A final document will be prepared after review of those comments.

  • Model Training Program for Hazard Communications. Employers are required by the HCS to provide training to employees who are exposed to hazardous chemicals. Training is needed to explain and reinforce the information presented on labels and MSDSs. This document is designed to assist employers in developing a training program that is tailored to the needs of their workplace, regardless of size or complexity. It provides extensive training materials so the employer may choose those appropriate to the workplace situation. Comments on the draft model training program are being solicited through OSHA's web page. A final document will be prepared after review of those comments.

  • Guidance for Preparing MSDSs will be posted for comment after comment periods close for the first two documents. This document will provide guidance on how to write MSDSs that are clear, consistent, and complete. It will include a sample MSDS format, as well as instructions for composing individual sections of the MSDS. Sources that can be consulted to obtain information to complete the sections will be provided, as well as guidance on what type of information to include in each section. Suggestions for ensuring that the information is presented in a comprehensible manner will also be included. This document should help to address both the accuracy and the comprehensibility of MSDSs.

    Education and Outreach. OSHA has formed an Alliance with the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC), a professional society that focuses on hazard communication issues. OSHA and SCHC will work together to produce several products for this initiative, including a course for small businesses on preparation of MSDSs; development of a training program for OSHA compliance staff on review of MSDS information; and development of a checklist for OSHA staff and the public to use to review MSDSs. OSHA will also work with other Alliance Program participants to provide outreach on this issue.

  • International Chemical Safety Cards are available on OSHA's webpage. OSHA's compliance staff, as well as the general public, will be made aware of the availability of these cards, which are similar to MSDSs in terms of the information provided. They are internationally developed and peer reviewed, cover over 1300 substances, and are available in 14 languages. They will be modified to be consistent with the GHS classification criteria and MSDS format.
Enforcement
The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) remains a focus of OSHA enforcement efforts. In fiscal year 2003, over 7,000 citations were issued by the Agency for violations of the HCS, making it the second most frequently cited OSHA standard. Over $1.3 million in penalties were assessed. OSHA is developing an enforcement initiative for compliance officers to review and evaluate the adequacy of MSDSs. This enforcement component includes:
  • A list of critical information for certain chemicals that CSHOs will use in reviewing MSDSs during inspections will be developed.

  • Referrals via phone and fax are also available for situations where employees are concerned about the content of MSDSs
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a very important addition to OSHA's Hazard Communication Initiative.
  • OSHA is preparing a guide to the GHS to increase public awareness of the system. OSHA believes that the GHS provides a possible avenue for improving chemical hazard communication in the long term

  • OSHA participates in an interagency committee on harmonization, and is working with other agencies potentially affected by the GHS.

  • The Agency's Alliance with SCHC is also anticipated to serve as a mechanism for increasing awareness of the GHS. OSHA anticipates that these efforts will allow for informed stakeholder participation as the Agency determines an appropriate course of action regarding the GHS.



U.S. Labor Department news releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this release will be made available in alternative format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202-693-7773 or TTY 202-693-7755.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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