OSHA Updates Hazard Communication Standard

May 22, 2024
Final rule updates Hazard Communication Standard to better protect workers and first responders and will take effect July 19, 2024.

On May 20, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its final rule updating the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The HCS ensures chemical safety in the workplace by requiring manufacturers to provide information about hazardous chemicals through labels, safety data sheets and training to employees. The final rule becomes effective July 19, 2024. 

Aligned primarily with the seventh revision of the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), the updated standard will require labels on small packaging to be more comprehensive and readable. 

The update also makes changes to help ensure trade secrets no longer prevent workers and first responders from receiving critical hazard information on safety data sheets. The current HCS allows a manufacturer to claim as confidential the exact percentage of a chemical in a mixture. The final rule will now require manufacturers to disclose the concentration range in which the secret concentration falls, drawn from a specified list of narrow ranges currently used by Health Canada. 

Other changes include a clearer hazard classification process to provide more complete and accurate hazard information on labels and safety data sheets; updated physical hazard classes to better inform users on safe handling of explosives, aerosols and chemicals under pressure; and updated precautionary statements on how to safely handle, store and dispose of hazardous chemicals. 

The final rule also addresses issues that arose since the implementation of the 2012 standard and improves alignment with other federal agencies and Canada.  

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) has worked to educate OSHA throughout the process, advocating for changes including beneficial flexibility for labeling of small packages, bulk shipments and chemicals already released for distribution. 
Specific to hazard classification, SOCMA raised concerns that manufacturers would be required to anticipate and be responsible for characterizing and warning about hazards presented by whatever chemicals or products their downstream customers may make with that product. In the final rule, OSHA modified this requirement, specifying that a hazard classification must include hazards associated with the “chemical's intrinsic properties,” including a change in the chemical's physical form and chemical reaction products associated with known or reasonably anticipated uses or applications.
"While this specification will reduce the burden on manufacturers, it is still unclear to what extent the rule would require manufacturers to anticipate downstream chemical uses,” said Genevieve Strand, SOCMA Director of Government Relations, in a press release

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