GHS is Coming…We’re Prepared. Are You?

GHS, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, is coming. It’s something we’ve known theoretically for many years. But because the wheels of government regulatory adoption move slowly, there hasn’t been much haste on the part of the greater safety community to prepare for its arrival. Those days are over. GHS is coming…and it’s coming soon.

If you are not up to speed on GHS…please check out the GHS Answer Center for more details. In short, GHS is a global approach to hazardous chemical classification and hazard communication (the latter via labels and safety data sheets).

In January, OSHA announced its plan to publish the final rule on GHS adoption in August. By GHS adoption, we mean the aligning of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with the principles of GHS. It is not a complete adoption of GHS – OSHA, as the GHS system allows, is adopting most aspects of GHS, but not all.

That means even employers familiar with GHS (as it has been adopted or is in the process of adoption by more than 48 countries) will need to familiarize themselves with OSHA’s specific implementation of the system. For instance, there are some GHS provisions that are not under the jurisdiction of OSHA, such as environmental concerns.

So OSHA says GHS is coming in August. Not to be contrary; however, people we’ve talked to that were intimately involved in the creation of GHS on the U.S. side say that date is optimistic. They think it’s more likely to be November or December, if not the first part of 2012. Regardless, everyone is in agreement that it’s happening very soon and that employers and safety professionals had better prepare.

You might ask, “Why are you talking about this now?” Well a funny thing happened today – a potential customer was talking with one of our sales people about moving their chemical inventory management to an electronic system but had concerns that our solution would become obsolete in the face of GHS.

Funny, isn’t it? Not funny, ha-ha. It’s kind of funny where someone says one thing, when really the exact opposite is true.

GHS is coming and even though many in the safety community have been asleep to its slow approach, MSDSonline has been dutifully preparing. Just this spring we launched a brand new chemical inventory management platform that will simplify GHS compliance as well as compliance with dozens of state and federal agencies.

Furthermore, the more you know about GHS, the better you can appreciate how well prepared MSDSonline is. Honestly, I don’t blame the potential customer mentioned above for not knowing this. There’s a lot of confusion in the safety community about what GHS will mean to employers and how companies like MSDSonline can help. To that end, I’d like to address a few things here.

The major pain points for most employers under GHS are going to be in the areas of material safety data sheet (MSDS) management, safety labels, and training. Here’s why:

Under GHS, MSDSs will get a make-over from the format most employers see today. First, GHS drops the M and simply refers to MSDSs as safety data sheets or SDSs. Additionally, GHS dictates a 16-section format for SDSs, with a prescribed ordering of the sections. Next, safety labels get a GHS make-over too that includes the addition of hazard pictograms and specific language that needs to be included on labels to make them compliant. Finally, OSHA, as part of the GHS adoption is going to require that companies train their employees on these changes within two years of its adoption.

So how can MSDSonline help?

Once GHS is adopted, chemical manufacturers and importers will have to rewrite their SDSs to conform to GHS – which means employers and users of chemicals are going to see, in many cases, their entire SDS library turn over in a very short time. MSDSonline can manage that electronically for you. Once we know what’s in your SDS library, we will be on the lookout for those SDSs and deliver them to you automatically as they become available. And if you need a new SDS right away, if it’s not already in our industry leading database of millions of SDS, you can just tell us what you need and we’ll get it for you.

Let me put it another way – what if every email you received was actually a piece of paper? How difficult would it be for you to manage those emails? What if you had to duplicate some of those emails and put them into folders to be stored around the workplace? Sounds like a lot of work. Now, what if you wanted to look at all of the emails by name of the sender, or by their subject, or by their date? How difficult would that be?

How would you rather manage and sort your hundreds (or thousands) of emails, via a paper system or an electronic system? I think we can all agree, electronic management provides greater control and efficiency. MSDSonline can make the management of your SDSs as easy as checking your email.  (Without the SPAM, of course.)

When it comes to labels, it’s essentially the same thing. We’ve made it easy to create GHS compliant shipping and workplace labels – and not just GHS labels. Our system can just as easily produce WHMIS, DOT, NFPA, HMIS or other custom labels.

Finally, MSDSonline’s on-demand training solutions make it easy for you to keep your employees safe and up-to-speed on the latest safety concerns.

GHS is coming, and the question is not “Is MSDSonline prepared?” We are. In fact, our new chemical inventory management platform greatly expands our ability to not only help you track and manage SDSs, but also manage and track hazardous chemicals at the container level. We’ll help you answer the questions: what chemicals do you have; how much do have; and where?

Furthermore, our new platform features robust reporting and regulatory cross referencing, so exporting data, generating reports like submittable Tier II Reports and staying compliant with state, federal and global regulations is easy.

GHS? Bring it on. We’re ready, as are our customers. The real question is how can we help you? The transition to GHS is an opportunity for you take your hazardous chemical management to the next level, and we’d love to be your partners in that.