Breaking OSHA News: GHS Approval Could Be Less Than 90 Days Away – OSHA Submits Revised HazCom Standard to OMB

MSDSonline President and CEO Glenn Trout is set to deliver a presentation on GHS at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo on November 2 at 1:00 p.m. The session is entitled "GHS is Coming Soon – Are You Prepared?" VP of Sales for MSDSonline, Chuck Haling, will co-present.

MSDSonline has learned that on October 25, 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) submitted a final rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that would revise the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with GHS.

It would be the last major hurdle before a final rule on a revised HCS can be published. Because OMB must review the rule within 90 days, OMB approval of a revised Hazard Communication Standard could be less than 90 days away.

View OMB Post on GHS.

After several decades of planning and a few missed deadlines this year, OSHA has taken an important step toward publishing a final rule that would align the Hazard Communication Standard with GHS, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Developed by the United Nations, GHS is intended to align the major hazard communication standards in use around the world.

MSDSonline President and CEO Glenn Trout and VP of Sales Chuck Haling are giving a presentation on GHS entitled "GHS is Coming Soon – Are You Prepared?" at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Philadelphia, October 30 through November 4. The session on GHS is Wednesday, November 2, from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. (session #119, in room 117).

MSDSonline's presentation will cover the major changes U.S. companies can expect from a revised HCS, including important changes to safety labels and material safety data sheets, as well as steps companies can take to prepare for the impending standard. Trout and Haling will also cover obligations chemical manufacturers and distributors have around hazard classification and MSDS authoring.

OSHA Director Dr. David Michaels is also expected to attend this year's Congress and Expo, one of the largest safety conferences of its kind, bringing together environmental health and safety professionals from around the world.

Revised HCS

A revised HCS will affect every organization in the United States that uses hazardous chemicals and is covered under OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200. The biggest changes for most businesses will be to hazard classification, safety labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS).

The idea for GHS came out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, otherwise known as the “Earth Summit.” Working with a broad coalition of nations that included the United States, the United Nations published the first version of GHS in 2003 and is currently in its fourth revision. To date over 65 countries have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) GHS, including Canada, which is expected to adopt GHS sometime in the next two years.

Hazard classification is more prescriptive under GHS than in the current HCS. For instance, under GHS, safety labels are standardized with required elements like product identifier, manufacturer or distributor contact information, pictograms, signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements. Similarly, MSDSs under GHS are simply called safety data sheets or SDSs and have a standardized format with 16 sections in a strict order.

It’s a big change from the performance based safety labels and MSDSs currently mandated by OSHA’s HCS. The performance based approach largely leaves it up to the chemical manufacturer and/or distributor to decide what to put on the label and safety data sheet – OSHA explains what affect of the label or MSDS should be, but not how to achieve it. GHS is more consistent in its approach.

Once the rule is made final, U.S. companies affected by the new standard should expect to see their entire safety data sheet library turn over in an accelerated timeframe.

One of the main drivers behind GHS adoption was to create harmony among the global hazard communication standards, with labels and SDSs that could be used in multiple countries. Here’s how OSHA explains it in the rule it submitted to OMB:

“Multiple sets of requirements for labels and safety data sheets present a compliance burden for U.S. manufacturers, distributors, and transports involved in international trade. The comprehensibility of hazard information and worker safety will be enhanced as the GHS will: (1) Provide consistent information and definitions for hazardous chemicals; (2) address stakeholder concerns regarding the need for a standardized format for material safety data sheets; and (3) increase understanding by using standardized pictograms and harmonized hazard statements.”

It goes on to say,

“The increase in comprehensibility and consistency will reduce confusion and thus improve worker safety and health. In addition, the adoption of the GHS would facilitate international trade in chemicals, reduce the burdens caused by having to comply with differing requirements for the same product, and allow companies that have not had the resources to deal with those burdens to be involved in international trade.”

You can learn more about GHS at or by visiting the GHS Answer Center.

About MSDSonline
Founded in 1996 and based in Chicago, MSDSonline is a leading provider of cloud-based EH&S compliance solutions, offering products and services for managing safety data sheets, reporting workplace incidents, training employees and administering other critical EH&S information.  The company’s mission is to provide sustainable solutions that help customers improve employee safety, streamline compliance recordkeeping and reduce potential exposures to workplace hazards and risks. MSDSonline has been recognized for the last six years on Inc. magazine’s list of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies. More information is available online at and on the official company blog at MSDSonline is an ICG (Nasdaq: ICGE) company.

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