COMPLIANCE ALERT: June 1, 2015 Deadline

When OSHA revised the Hazard Communication Standard to align with GHS, it selected June 1, 2015 as the deadline by which chemical manufacturers would have to complete the process of reclassifying hazardous chemicals and update safety data sheets and labels to the new GHS formats. However, many manufacturers missed this deadline — more than half, based on estimates from MSDSonline. There were many different reasons for this.

Prior to the deadline, some industry groups, such as the American Coatings Association had seen this possibility on the horizon and lobbied OSHA to move the deadline. OSHA declined to do so, but instead later implemented selective enforcement measures specific to manufacturers who were chemical blenders, whereby noncompliance citations could potentially be avoided if these select manufacturers could demonstrate “reasonable diligence” and/or a “good faith effort” to comply, which according to an enforcement memo entails efforts to:

  • Obtain classification information and SDSs from upstream suppliers
  • Find hazard information from alternative sources (e.g. chemical registries)
  • Classify the data themselves

However, according to information from OSHA representatives at a Society for Chemical Hazard Communication meeting in March of 2015 if your businesses has not yet begun documenting efforts to accomplish the above, it may be a challenge to qualify for the enforcement exemption.

According to its analysis of the percentage of GHS-aligned documents available in the marketplace, MSDSonline estimates that — as of mid-2016 — about 25 percent of MSDSs have yet to be GHS-aligned.

MSDSonline has received questions from concerned employers asking when we will have all of the safety data sheets updated to the new format. The answer is:  It depends. To better explain, it is helpful to understand MSDSonline’s role.

VelocityEHS’ MSDSonline chemical management solutions help companies ensure compliance with HazCom requirements in several ways:

  1. We offer access to the industry’s leading library of updated manufacturer and distributor safety data sheets. [MSDSonline is not the author of most of these SDSs.]
  2. We help users manage their SDS library.  We search the marketplace for the most recent/updated SDSs, and upload them to our system.  We also give users the ability to upload their own SDSs or request that we retrieve SDSs for them.
  3. We offer expert safety data sheet Authoring Services to chemical manufacturers and distributors.
  4. We offer on-demand training on HazCom and a variety of related topics.

If the question is, “When will our library will have secured every updated GHS-aligned SDS,” the answer is: we don’t know. OSHA’s HazCom Standard places the onus on chemical manufacturers and distributors to make the necessary updates to safety data sheets. We can only update our library when we have secured updated SDSs from manufacturers or distributors (or when we have been contracted to custom-author SDSs).  If users receive an updated SDS before we do, we give them tools to easily and seamlessly upload that SDS.

If the question is “When will MSDSonline re-author all of the SDSs in its library to make them GHS-compliant,” the answer is: that’s not what we do or how the GHS transition works. MSDSonline is not charged with updating all safety data sheets directly.

Again, MSDSonline has a team of SDS authoring experts that have been helping many companies fulfill their authoring obligations, however, MSDSonline can only provide this service to customers who contract with us.

The primary role of our MSDSonline chemical management solutions is to help customers (employers) manage their chemical inventory, including their library of safety data sheets, making updated documents accessible when they become available from the manufacturer and/or distributor. To that end, we are continuously working on behalf of our customers to find recently updated safety data sheets (whether in the GHS format or not) and to update our database in kind.

A Call to Action

At this point, all of the GHS-related deadlines have passed, which means the obligations they set forth are now in effect. Many of the SDSs in circulation (but not all) are now GHS-aligned. If there are still out-of-date safety data sheets in your library, the time to act is now. Put the heat on your suppliers! Let them know that you will be expecting your updated documentation as soon as possible, and that the time for them to do any required authoring was yesterday.

And if you’re an MSDSonline customer, and you receive an updated SDS that is not in our database, go ahead and add it, or let us know and we’ll get it added for you.

Remember, the best way to avoid unwanted GHS-related surprises with your HazCom Program is to get and stay educated.  Though employers, manufacturers, and distributors may have had different deadlines during the transition period, the GHS changes to HazCom affect us all, and we were and will continue to be all in this together!

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