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May 19, 2015

U.S. OSHA HCS 2012 Deadline Less Than Two Weeks Away

The ACTA Group

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) deadline of June 1, 2015, is fast approaching. Below is a brief summary of what is at stake, and what needs to be in place by the deadline.

On March 26, 2012, OSHA issued a final rule modifying its HCS to conform to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), Revision 3. In the final rule, OSHA drastically modified the process by which hazards are classified and the elements required on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), now called Safety Data Sheets (SDS), as well as labels.

The deadline to train employees on the new label and SDS format was December 1, 2013. The deadline for all labels and SDSs to meet the new criteria is June 1, 2015, for everyone except distributors who may ship products with the old labels until December 1, 2015. This June 1, 2015, deadline coincides with the European Union (EU) Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) implementation for mixtures.

The scope of the new rule is primarily the same as it requires any chemical manufacturer or importer to classify the hazards of their chemicals and all employers to provide hazardous chemical information to their employees.

The definitions for June 1, 2015, compliance are of critical importance as OSHA indicates in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200(c) a chemical manufacturer is an employer with a workplace where a chemical is produced for use or distribution. Production includes not only manufacturing but also processing, formulating, blending, extracting, generating, emitting, or repackaging.

The most significant changes relate to the means by which chemical hazards are defined. There are six new Appendices — five are considered mandatory and one is provided as guidance. Appendices A and B contain the criteria for classification for health and physical hazards for substances and mixtures. Appendix C includes the required elements for labels and Appendix D includes the required elements for the SDS. Appendix E relates exclusively to trade secrets. The optional guidance in Appendix F relates to carcinogenicity classification.

The SDS requirements also stipulate that the document must be 16 sections and that Sections 12, 13, 14, and 15 are included to maintain consistency with GHS, but contain non-mandatory information as these are directly related to other agency jurisdictions (e.g., Section 14 for transportation classification and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)).

OSHA has posted many helpful tools for industry on its website over the past three years. The most recent is the February 9, 2015, “Enforcement Guidance for the Hazard Communication Standard’s (HCS) June 1, 2015 Effective Date.” This guidance helps clarify OSHA’s enforcement discretion policy in cases where downstream members of the chemical supply chain are unable to meet the June 1, 2015, deadline to have updated SDSs and labels because they have not received information from their suppliers despite making good faith efforts to obtain the data.

OSHA Briefs, Quick Cards, Compliance Guides, and Letters of Interpretation are also available to assist industry with the complexity of implementation. Specific topics include labeling of small packages, details on combustible dusts, clarification on hazards not otherwise classified, disclosure of substances of unknown or variable composition, and details on alternative approaches to certain labeling elements. For more details on the specifics, see online.

If you have specific questions about how best to ensure your compliance obligations are met, call or e-mail Karin Baron at (757) 874-7130 or