OSHA Alignment with GHS is Coming – Just Not in September and Maybe not Until 2012

Anyone that’s been hanging around this blog knows that GHS adoption by OSHA, in the form of a revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), is on the way.

In January of this year, OSHA said the final rule would be published in August 2011. Then in July, OSHA revised its timetable, saying the final rule should come in September 2011.

When OSHA revised the date of its final rule in July, close watchers of OSHA were doubtful that the agency could make its revised September timetable since at that time the final rule had not yet been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval– a process that normally takes up to 90 days.

With August coming to an end, MSDSonline has been talking to a number of friends and sources close to the rule making process and now believes GHS alignment with HCS is about 4-6 months away – with early 2012 the most likely time frame for the new rule.

Currently the HCS revision is still under a final agency review – a process that has no firm end date. Once OSHA’s completes its review, the final rule should go to OMB for its 90 day review process.

Whether the final rule happens this year or early next year, it’s going to be a big change and one that creates a number of new compliance obligations.

What does this mean for the millions of employers and chemical manufacturers and importers who will be affected by the revised HCS? It means they’ve been given a reprieve, a chance to get out in front of the new standard. Rather than adopting a wait and see posture, MSDSonline is advocating for companies to begin active preparation.

Here are some steps companies can take to prepare for the eventual publishing of the final rule:

  1. If you’re a chemical manufacturers or importer, now is the time to author GHS compliant safety data sheets. (Under GHS, safety data sheets have a new format and are called SDSs dropping the M from MSDS)
  2. If your employees use or otherwise handle hazardous chemicals and you are required to make MSDSs available to employees, start preparing for the MSDS churn. Once HCS is revised to align with GHS, your entire safety data sheet library will need to be updated in a short time span.
  3. Consider moving to an online MSDS management system that allows you to organize your MSDSs by location and ensure that your library is complete and up-to-date
  4. Make sure your employees are on the lookout for newly formatted, GHS compliant safety data sheets and that they capture and file the new SDSs when they arrive – especially for shipments of chemicals you receive on a routine basis
  5. Confirm that your secondary labeling system is GHS compliant
  6. Develop a plan for training your employees on GHS. Even though OSHA has said that the final rule will include at least a two year transition period during which employers can adhere to the old or new standard; in the end, employers have an obligation to ensure their employees are safe and know how to read safety data sheets and labels in use in the workplace.
  7. Talk to your chemical vendors and ask about their plans to transition to GHS. The sooner everyone is moved over to the revised HCS, the easier compliance will be on everyone.
  8.  Consider your SARA obligations to share updated hazard information with your local and state emergency planning agencies

If you’d like to learn more about GHS or steps you can take to prepare today, call and talk to an MSDSonline compliance expert at 1-888-362-2007.