OSHA announced that by August of this year it will finalize a rule adopting the globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. As a result workers and employers will be required to learn a new set of pictograms and abbreviations. Additionally, all product labels, material safety data sheets, written hazard communication plans and worker training must be updated to comply with the new standard.
This change is meant to streamline the hazard communication process, particularly when dealing with different nations. The GHS will nearly eliminate inconsistencies between laws and increase worker safety around the world.
“The diverse and sometimes conflicting national and international requirements can create confusion among those who seek to use hazard information. Labels and safety data sheets may include symbols and hazard statements that are unfamiliar to readers or not well understood. As a result of this situation, and in recognition of the extensive international trade in chemicals, there has been a long-standing effort to harmonize these requirements and develop a system that can be used around the world,” the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs said in a release.
OSHA reminds employers that the GHS itself is not a regulation or standard, but rather a set of agreed upon criteria. Regulatory authorities in countries adopting the GHS will take the agreed criteria and provisions, and implement them through their own regulatory process and procedures.
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