In late 2013, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced that they would be revamping the Hazard Communication Standard in favor of adopting the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The new regulations will include major modifications to the hazard classification system, chemical labeling requirements and safety data sheets (SDSs).

In the end, the shift is expected to reduce the confusion that surrounds chemical labels by establishing universal language/illustrations of hazard warnings so that workers — both English and non-English speakers — can benefit from the proper use and handling of chemicals.

Although the program won’t be finalized until June 2016, custodial executives should be aware of the directives being released in stages until that time.

For example, all custodial operations executives were required to train their workers on the proposed changes by Dec. 1, 2013. Although new labeling and safety data sheets were not yet mandatory, workers needed to be trained on what to expect as manufacturers slowly rolled out labels featuring the required pictograms, signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements. Those who failed to provide training could face fines of $7,000 per infraction, or more than $70,000 for repeated violations, according to OSHA.

Since the 2013 training requirement, there has been little for the custodial executive to worry about in terms of GHS. Instead, manufacturers have been busy re-qualifying products and updating labels and SDSs to comply with new deadlines coming out this year.

Although some product manufacturers have been ahead of the curve, managers will start to receive even more SDSs and updated products. Manufacturers have a deadline of June 1, 2015 to bring all products and materials into compliance. And as a result, distributors will be supplying more GHS-compliant products and SDSs to their customers.

But don’t expect to see a change overnight. According to the regulations, distributors do have up to six months — until Dec. 1, 2015 — to first sell their existing stock of products before being required to send out products with new GHS labels. After that, expect all products and materials provided by the distributor to be in compliance.

Then, just one deadline looms for cleaning executives. By June 1, 2016, OSHA requires that all products used within custodial departments be GHS-compliant — including labels and SDSs. On an as needed basis, managers must also provide additional employee training for any new physical or health hazards associated with the products.

It has been a couple years since GHS was first discussed, but custodial executives will start to see some significant changes sooner rather than later. Make sure your paperwork is up-to-date and your staff is trained and ready for the new revisions.

To learn about what these deadlines mean for distributors, click here.