5 Great Questions About GHS and OSHA

MSDSonline hosted a recent Webinar on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals  (GHS) and the participants had a number of great questions. Considering how we're all in this together, we wanted to share a few of the questions and answers with you.

  1. Is the red border around the pictograms required?
  2. Is the same level of information required on secondary containers as on labels?
  3. Are there minimum size requirements for the pictograms on the labels?
  4. Are manufactures going to be mandated to submit all new SDSs when the GHS takes effect or is it something that we will be required to request from manufacturers?
  5. Has the wording of the hazard statement clauses and precautionary information clauses been drafted?  If so, where can I access these?

1. Is the red border around the pictograms required?

The short answer is yes. The full answer is a little more nuanced. Under the original GHS Proposal, a black frame would be permissible for items that stayed within one country.

From GHS 4.3.1 Symbols/Pictograms
The GHS symbols have been incorporated into pictograms for use on the GHS label. Pictograms include the harmonized hazard symbols plus other graphic elements, such as borders, background patterns or colors which are intended to convey specific information. For transport, pictograms  will have the background, symbol and colors currently used in the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations. For other sectors, pictograms will have a black symbol on a white background with a red diamond frame. A black frame may be used for shipments within one country. Where a transport pictogram appears, the GHS pictogram for the same hazard should not appear.

However, OSHA is proposing a more stringent standard that would require the use of color. Because nothing has been finalized in the U.S. we can’t yet say definitively that a red border will be required, but everything is pointing in that direction. The following is OSHA’s proposed rule from the Federal Register.

From OSHA Proposed Rule, September 30, 2009

Supplementary Information:

The proposal would require pictograms to have a red frame. As discussed in Section V, OSHA believes that use of the color red will make warnings more noticeable and will aid in communicating the presence of a hazard.

From Section V:

Red is commonly understood to be associated with a high level of hazard—the highest of any color. OSHA anticipates that by using the color red on labels for hazardous chemicals, labels will be more effective in communicating hazards to employees—both by drawing the attention of employees and indicating the presence of a hazard through nonverbal means.

From XV. Summary and Explanation of the Proposed Standard

The workplace pictograms will be a black symbol on a white background with a red diamond border frame. Some commenters noted that the frame should be permitted to be black for domestic shipments as allowed under the GHS . However, as described in Section V of this preamble, there are clear benefits associated with the use of the red frame in terms of recognition and comprehensibility. Thus OSHA is proposing to only allow the red frame to be used, whether the shipment is domestic or international.

So assuming OSHA has its way on this issue, a red border will be required in the United States, even though it is not mandated by GHS. It is a great example of how GHS is a voluntary system with building blocks that countries can use to inform their specific standards. In this case, OSHA is proposing a more stringent standard.

2. Is the same level of information required on secondary containers as on labels?

The short answer is no. However, there may be a good deal more of information required than you are currently used to.

From GHS 4.7  Are workplace containers covered in the GHS ?
Products falling within the scope of the GHS will carry the GHS label at the point where they are supplied to the workplace, and that label should be maintained on the supplied container in the workplace. The GHS label or label elements can also be used for workplace containers (e.g., storage tanks). However, the Competent Authority can allow employers to use alternative means of giving workers the same information in a different written or displayed format when such a format is more appropriate to the workplace and communicates the information as effectively as the GHS label. For example, label information could be displayed in the work area, rather than on the individual containers. Some examples of workplace situations where chemicals may be transferred from supplier containers include: containers for laboratory testing, storage vessels, piping or process reaction systems or temporary containers where the chemical will be used by one worker within a short timeframe.

From OSHA Proposed Rule

Section VIII. OMB Review Under thePaperwork Reduction Act of 1995

For labels in the workplace, except as provided in paragraphs (8) and (9)  of the Standard, employers must ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace is labeled, tagged, or marked with either (i) the information specified under (i) through (v) for labels on shipped containers (see Table 1):

Table 1

(i) Product identifier;

(ii) Signal word;

(iii) Hazard statement(s);

(iv) Pictogram(s);

(v) Precautionary statement(s);

or, (ii) product identifier and words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof, which provide at least general information regarding the hazards of the chemicals, and which, in conjunction with the other information immediately available to employees under the hazard communication program, will provide employees with the specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the hazardous chemical.

The preceding is echoed later in OSHA’s Proposed Standard

From PART 1910—OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH STANDARDS [AMENDED]

(7) Workplace labeling. Except as provided in paragraphs (8) and (9) of this section, the employer shall ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace is labeled, tagged or marked with either: (i) The information specified under (i) through (v) for labels on shipped containers (see Table 1 above);

or, (ii) Product identifier and words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof, which provide at least general information regarding the hazards of the chemicals, and which, in conjunction with the other information immediately available to employees under the hazard communication program, will provide employees with the specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the hazardous chemical.

(8) The employer may use signs, placards, process sheets, batch tickets, operating procedures, or other such written materials in lieu of affixing labels to individual stationary process containers, as long as the alternative method identifies the containers to which it is applicable and conveys the information required by paragraph (7) of this section to be on a label. The employer shall ensure the written materials are readily accessible to the employees in their work area throughout each work shift.

(9) The employer is not required to label portable containers into which hazardous chemicals are transferred from labeled containers, and which are intended only for the immediate use of the employee who performs the transfer. For purposes of this section, drugs which are dispensed by a pharmacy to a health care provider for direct administration to a patient are exempted from labeling.

3. Are there minimum size requirements for the pictograms on the labels?

The short answer is no. A common sense approach is required here. GHS pictograms are expected to be proportional to the size of the label text - which will, generally speaking, make the GHS pictograms smaller than transport pictograms.

4.5 Is there a specific GHS Label format / layout?
The GHS hazard pictograms, signal word and hazard statements should be located together on the label. The actual label format or layout is not specified in the GHS. National authorities may choose to specify where information should appear on the label or allow supplier discretion.

There has been discussion about the size of GHS pictograms and that a GHS pictogram might be confused with a transport pictogram or "diamond". Transport pictograms  are different in appearance than the GHS pictograms. Annex 7 of the Purple Book explains how the GHS pictograms are expected to be proportional to the size of the label text. So that generally the GHS pictograms would be smaller than the transport pictograms.

4. Are producers going to be mandated to submit all new SDS when the GHS takes effect or is it something that we will be required to request from producers?

The short answer is that manufactures are required to convey hazard information downstream. However, as an employer, you also have a responsibility to ensure your employees have the information, training and resources required to be safe. So it becomes a kind of chicken and the egg game. As mentioned in our presentation on GHS, employers would be wise to have a solid HazCom plan in place that includes doing a chemical inventory and ensuring they have the requisite SDSs for onsite hazardous materials.

From OSHA Proposed Rule

Supplemental Information:  IV Overview and Purpose of the Modifications to the Hazard Communication Standard

The intent of the HCS is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals are evaluated, and that information concerning chemical hazards and associated protective measures is transmitted to employers and employees. The standard achieves this goal by requiring chemical manufacturers and importers to review available scientific evidence concerning the physical and health hazards of the chemicals they produce or import to determine if they are hazardous. For every chemical found to be hazardous, the chemical manufacturer or importer must develop a container label and an SDS and provide both documents to downstream users of the chemical. All employers with employees exposed to hazardous chemicals must develop a hazard communication program, and ensure that exposed employees are provided with labels, access to SDSs, and training on the hazardous chemicals in their workplace.

Also, keep in mind that once you are in possession of an updated SDS, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that it is implemented into each corresponding SDS library in your domain. This is where an electronic system can be very beneficial. Keeping up with the large number of SDSs expected to be revised under GHS could be a challenge for many medium to large sized companies or companies with a large number of SDSs.

5. Has the wording of the hazard statement clauses and precautionary information clauses been drafted?  If so, where can I access these?

4.3  What are the GHS label elements?
The standardized label elements included in the GHS are:

  • Symbols (hazard pictograms): Convey health, physical and environmental hazard information, assigned to a GHS hazard class and category.
  • Signal Words: "Danger" or "Warning" are used to emphasize hazards and indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard, assigned to a GHS hazard class and category.
  • Hazard Statements: Standard phrases assigned to a hazard class and category that describe the nature of the hazard.

The symbols, signal words, and hazard statements have all been standardized and assigned to specific hazard categories and classes, as appropriate. This approach makes it easier for countries to implement the system and should make it easier for companies to comply with regulations based on the GHS. The prescribed symbols, signal words, and hazard statements can be readily selected from Annex 1 of the GHS Purple Book.

These standardized elements are not subject to variation, and should appear on the GHS label as indicated in the GHS for each hazard category/class in the system. The use of symbols, signal words or hazard statements other than those that have been assigned to each of the GHS hazards would be contrary to harmonization.

4.3.4 Precautionary Statements and Pictograms
Precautionary information supplements the hazard information by briefly providing measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects from physical, health or environmental hazards. First aid is included in precautionary information. The GHS label should include appropriate precautionary information. Annex 3 of the GHS Purple Book includes precautionary statements and pictograms that can be used on labels.

Annex 3 includes four types of precautionary statements covering: prevention, response in cases of accidental spillage or exposure, storage, and disposal. The precautionary statements have been linked to each GHS hazard statement and type of hazard. The goal is to promote consistent use of precautionary statements. Annex 3 is guidance and is expected to be further refined and developed over time.

 

Answers to the preceding questions were pulled from information found on the following Web pages:

 

 

 

Learn more about the GHS by clicking on the links below:

GHS Answer Center

10 GHS Facts in 60 Seconds    GHS 101: An Overview     GHS 101: History of the GHS

GHS 101: Classification    GHS 101: Labels    GHS 101: Safety Data Sheets

GHS 101: U.S. Adoption    GHS 101: GHS Definitions

GHS Pictograms    GHS Transport Pictograms

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