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June 2013

What you should know about the globally harmonized hazard communication standard

By Ellis Brash

By now, many of you have probably heard about the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) changes to the hazard communication standard. These changes, which apply to most workplaces, are based on the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System for classifying and labeling hazardous chemicals.

How will the globally harmonized hazard communication standard affect your workplace?

The basic framework of the hazard communication standard (1910.1200) is not changing. If you are an employer, you must still prepare a written hazard communication plan when your employees use or may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. However, by aligning 1910.1200 with the Globally Harmonized System, federal OSHA changed the way manufacturers must classify hazardous chemicals, the format of material safety data sheets, and the format of labels on shipped containers of hazardous chemicals. Here’s a summary of how these changes affect manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and you:

These changes are being phased in over three years so that it is easier for manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and employers to implement them. Key dates are:

Dec. 1, 2013

Youmust ensure that your employees are trained on the new 16-section safety data sheet format and the elements (signal words, pictograms, and hazard statements) in the new labels on shipped containers of hazardous chemicals.

Jun. 1, 2015

Chemical manufacturers, distributors, and youmust comply with all requirements of the hazard communication standard. Chemical manufacturers and distributors must classify chemicals using the GHS criteria and update their labels and safety data sheets.

Dec. 1, 2015

Distributors operating in the United States must have GHS-compliant labels on the hazardous chemical containers they ship to their customers. They cannot ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it has a GHS label.

June 1, 2016

You must comply with the hazard communication requirements for substance-specific rules such as lead and asbestos, which may affect your safety data sheets and labels. Your employees must also be trained on any new hazards that were identified at your workplace after manufacturers reclassified their chemicals under the GHS criteria. To identify any new hazards, pay close attention to hazard statements on incoming safety data sheets over the next few years and compare them with the hazards described on your old material safety data sheets.

Where to get more information:

An example of a GHS compliant label

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