Editor’s note: This summary article was extracted from an article title “GHS-the right to understand,” written by Dawn Shumaker and originally appeared in Cleaning & Maintenance Magazine.
Starting In December of 2013 there has been a change in the way in which warning and hazard labels are displayed on products, specifically cleaning products.
OSHA, also known as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Association, will now be combining its hazardous labeling system (known as HazCom) with GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals). One of the main reasons for this emergence is to help ensure a constant format for labels and safety data sheets for every chemical manufactured or used in the United States. This is not only designed to provide consistency in the U.S. but in many other countries around the world. The main objective that is trying to be achieved is that individuals in other countries that are using cleaning chemicals have the same amount of knowledge and the same set of warning and hazard labels as individuals in North America. In order to help ensure this a new global standard will be set forth.
The Previous HazCom standards were introduced in 1983. This stated that workers had the right to know about the potential hazards of using certain chemicals. They were also given guidance and information about numerous hazards, treatments if exposed to any of these hazards, mitigation numbers, and material safety data sheets.
With HazCom and GHS now being intertwined, information is now standardized. Not only is information now standardized, but it is now easier to locate and is given in a more universal language. For instance, signs now uses words such as “warning” and “danger,” and pictographs, and hazard/precautionary statements. This is due to the fact that these are sought to more likely be understood throughout the globe.
OSHA has a belief that these new standards will impact more than 5 million workplaces in the United States and affect more than 43 million workers. OSHA does know that there may be costs involved with this new development, but is hoping for the benefit to out-weigh the cost. Doctor David Michaels, The assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, hit the nail on the head by stating that “The HazCom standards gave people the right to know, the updated standard gives them a right to understand.”
With these new developments being implemented you must be aware of some key changes that are going to occur. First, Hazard Classification. The new policy implemented classifies health and safety hazards by class and category. What the hazard class does is identifies the nature of the hazard, whereas where the category centers on the severity of the hazard.
Chemicals must have hazard classification based on the weight of scientific study. This simply means if nine studies find a chemical not to be carcinogenic, but one does, then you must attach all ten conclusions in order to provide complete information.
The second change occurring that you should be aware of is New label Requirements. The previous HazCom policy was very lenient on how manufactures presented information on labels. The new labels must provide pictograms, red borders, and commonly used words. On the new labels the manufacturer must provide information on the proper steps to take if one is exposed to the hazards.
The third change happening is the end of MSDS forms. MSDS forms have been used since the 1950’s for chemical manufacturers. With this new program being implemented the MSDS will be replaced with the SDS. This will deliver more consistent information and ensure that information is organized the same way for all products.
The last major change that will be happening is that now there is going to be a change information and training is going to have to occur. With all of these changes happening employers are going to have to train workers on how to use the new labels and SDS format.
Now that you know changes that are going to occur pertaining to warnings and hazard labels, let’s see what the rest of the industry has to say about this. Some people believe that this change is for the worst. They believe that the merging of HazCom and GHS is occurring too fast, may be not needed at all, or will end up costing manufacturers, business owners, and mangers more time and money than expected. On the contrary others believe that this is a good idea. One of the main reasons for this is because a lot of these companies distribute to other parts of the world. So it would be easier to have one universal language to help prevent any confusion.
These new policies set forth are going to have a major impact on companies. They will help ensure that people are adequately educated about the hazards of the chemicals they are dealing with on a daily basis. Not only will it educate them on the hazards, but it will also teach them what precautions to take and how to handle if an emergency with the chemicals were to occur. All in all the new policy laid out will help promote and ensure plant safety.