OSHA Clarifies Compliance Dates for HCS 2012 Labeling

In March of 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized the revised version of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).  The HCS is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  This has provided a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets.

Earlier in June, OSHA clarified the requirements of the standard that pertain to labeling existing stock. The HCS 2012 will allow distributors of hazardous chemicals to continue to ship chemicals with HCS 1994 labels until December 1, 2015. There has been some confusion among distributors because June 1, 2015 is the deadline for newly packaged and labeled products to comply with HCS 2012.

The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) issued a press release welcoming OSHA’s clarification. “The agency’s guidance issued late last week allays many of the concerns our members have regarding compliance with the new OSHA requirements, most importantly, that they may continue to ship previously packaged and labeled products,” said NACD President Eric R. Byer.

Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals, however, may only continue to use the HCS 1994 labels after June 1st, 2015 “under certain limited circumstances”. They must be able to demonstrate that they have “exercised reasonable diligence and made good faith efforts to obtain and integrate the information”.

According to OSHA, reasonable diligence and good faith efforts include any and all efforts to:

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

For each hazardous chemical shipped by a manufacturer or importer after June 1 that does not comply with HCS 2012, the Certified Safety and Health Official (CSHO) shall consider whether the manufacturer or importer:

  • Developed and documented the process used to gather the necessary classification information from its upstream suppliers and the current status of such efforts;
  • Developed and documented efforts to find hazard information from alternative sources (e.g., chemical registries);
  • Provided a written account of its continued communications with upstream suppliers, including dated copies of all relevant written communication;
  • Provided a written account of continued communications with its distributors, including dated copies of all relevant written communication with its distributors informing them why it has been unable to comply with HCS 2012; and,
  • Developed the course of action it will follow to make the necessary changes to SDSs and labels once the information becomes available.

To view the OSHA Interim Enforcement Guidance, click here.

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