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

The global chemical business is more than a $1.7 trillion per year enterprise. In the United States, chemicals total more than $450 billion in sales, with exports accounting for nearly $80 billion per year, according to OSHA statistics.

OSHA introduced GHS to combat the sometimes-costly confusion that countered the rise of global trade; at one point nearly every nation, region and state had its own chemical labeling requirements. It wasn’t unusual for an American employer to receive chemicals from, say China, only to find the hazard information written entirely in Chinese, for example. Obviously, this was a problem.

The improved measures, enacted by OSHA in 2012 and affecting more than 40 million Americans, essentially set forth an overhaul of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), including new criteria for the classification of chemical hazards; revised labeling elements that embrace the use of standardized signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements; and a new itemized format for SDSs.
“[GHS] will enhance worker comprehension, resulting in appropriate handling and use of chemicals,” OSHA states on its website. “Currently, multiple labels and safety data sheets must often be developed for the same product when shipped to different countries. This creates a major compliance burden for manufacturers.”

Indeed, part of last year’s hold-up had to do with the time-consuming task of re-evaluating chemicals to meet the new classification and SDS requirements; OSHA estimates costs upwards of $11 million a year on an annualized basis for about 90,000 workplaces.

Still, OSHA says GHS costs — both in time and money — incurred by members of the chemical supply chain pale in comparison to the risks of employing an asynchronous system. OSHA predicts more than $266 million in savings due to reductions in safety and health hazards, and GHS is expected to prevent at least 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses, annually, with the new rules.

“Overall, the move toward a unified, or harmonized, system of hazard communication is a positive change that will enhance the flow of information and ultimately help reduce the incidence of illness and injuries due to chemical exposures,” says Balek.

previous page of this article:
Jan/San Industry Prepares For Globally Harmonized System
next page of this article:
Manufacturers Bear Brunt Of GHS Labeling Burden