This is the fourth part of a four-part article about GHS compliance.

The obligations imposed on distributors by OSHA may seem minute compared to manufacturers, but it’s that very threat that has some distributors on edge. Even when good partnerships exist between distributors and their manufacturers, distributors are forced to rely on their manufacturers’ compliance execution to fulfill their own.

“It’s been a challenge to sit and think about this and how we’re going to do it, from updating customers, to the purchasing department and the company website,” says Smith. “It’s been a process. You can’t just email the new papers. When you have hundreds of customers to attach specific documents to, you’re going through a lot of paper, absorbing costs. We carry a lot of products, so it’s not just one manufacturer we’re dealing with — we have dozens.”
The greatest challenges may come from distributors’ partnerships with smaller, regional manufacturers, who may not have the resources to speed up compliance efforts.
“A couple of times you have just one or two people at these companies who are handling compliance,” says Smith.
That’s essentially the problem, says Balek.

“OSHA has made it practically impossible to be in 100 percent compliance by the deadlines,” he says. “Distributors certainly understand their obligations and the GHS revisions generally, but inevitably we believe there will be pockets of noncompliance with the GHS label and SDS provisions by distributors due to circumstances beyond their control.”

Distributors can take some comfort in OSHA’s recently announced enforcement policy, says Balek. OSHA says it will not cite distributors for failure to have a GHS compliant label or SDS when a manufacturer has not given the distributor the leverage to do so.

To avoid citations, distributors need to show “good faith” efforts trying to obtain the necessary information from manufacturers. One example is to document all communication with suppliers about GHS compliance. Once manufacturers provide updated SDSs, distributors must send them to customers with the first shipment of products. Distributors still waiting on their manufacturers and able to demonstrate reasonable diligence will be able to ship products with old, noncompliant labels until Dec. 1, 2017.

“We urge distributors to review the enforcement policy and document their efforts to come into compliance,” says Balek. 

Stephanie S. Beecher is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the former Associate Editor of Sanitary Maintenance.

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Manufacturers Bear Brunt Of GHS Labeling Burden