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News Release USDL: 97-118
Thursday, April 3, 1997
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming,(202) 219-8151

OSHA Seeks Comments On International Hazard Communication Issues

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 solicited:

  • 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 Register.

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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