Unified Agenda - Table of Contents|
Priority: Other Significant. Major status under 5 USC 801 is undetermined.
Legal Authority: 29 USC 655(b); 29 USC 657
CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910.1200; 29 CFR 1915.1200; 29 CFR 1917.28; 29 CFR 1918.90; 29 CFR 1926.59; 29 CFR 1928.21
Legal Deadline: None
Abstract: OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and material safety data sheets to convey the hazards and associated protective measures to users of the chemicals. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces are required to have a hazard communication program, including labels on containers, material safety data sheets, and training for employees. Within the United States (US), there are other Federal agencies that also have requirements for classification and labeling of chemicals at different stages of the life cycle. Internationally, there are a number of countries that have developed similar laws that require information about chemicals to be prepared and transmitted to affected parties. These laws vary with regard to the scope of substances covered, definitions of hazards, the specificity of requirements (e.g., specification of a format for MSDSs), and the use of symbols and pictograms. The inconsistencies between the various laws are substantial enough that different labels and safety data sheets must often be used for the same product when it is marketed in different nations.
The diverse and sometimes conflicting national and international requirements can create confusion among those who seek to use hazard information. Labels and safety data sheets may include symbols and hazard statements that are unfamiliar to readers or not well understood. Containers may be labeled with such a large volume of information that important statements are not easily recognized. Development of multiple sets of labels and safety data sheets is a major compliance burden for chemical manufacturers, distributors, and transporters involved in international trade. Small businesses may have particular difficulty in coping with the complexities and costs involved.
As a result of this situation, and in recognition of the extensive international trade in chemicals, there has been a longstanding effort to harmonize these requirements and develop a system that can be used around the world. In 2003, the United Nations adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Countries are now considering adoption of the GHS into their national regulatory systems. There is an international goal to have as many countries as possible implement the GHS by 2008. OSHA is considering modifying its HCS to make it consistent with the GHS. This would involve changing the criteria for classifying health and physical hazards, adopting standardized labeling requirements, and requiring a standardized order of information for safety data sheets.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined
Government Levels Affected: None
Agency Contact: Dorothy Dougherty, Acting Director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., FP Building, Room 3718, Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 693-1950
Fax: 202 693-1678
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