OSHA adopted the GHS format in 2012 as a way to eliminate chemical labeling inconsistencies that have occurred with the rise in global trade. The new standards establish a universal language of hazard warnings, as well as enforce more stringent hazard classifications in hopes of reducing workplace injuries and deaths.

Currently, about 15 percent of workplace injuries and fatalities relate to chemical exposures. The revised standard is expected to prevent an estimated 585 injuries, and more than 40 deaths, annually, according to OSHA.

Among the changes to labels include:

• Pictograms: a symbol plus other graphic elements that is intended to convey specific information about the hazards of a chemical. Pictograms must retain the given format, i.e. red borders with black GHS symbols. There are currently nine pictograms.

• Signal words: a single word used to indicate the level of severity of the hazard and alert the reader to the potential danger. “Danger” is used for more severe hazards, while “warning” is used for less severe hazards.

• Hazard statement: a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazards of a chemical, including the degree of the hazard.

• Precautionary statement: a phrase that describes the recommended measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous chemical.

Besides changing the information that is included on chemical labels, OSHA has required manufacturers to revise their Safety Data Sheets. The new documents are now to be presented in a 16-section sequence.

The required order is as follows: Identification, Hazard’s identification, Composition/information on ingredients, First Aid measures, Fire-fighting measures, Handling and Storage, Exposure controls, personal protection, Physical and chemical properties, Stability and reactivity, Toxicological information, Ecological information, Disposal considerations, Transport information, Regulatory information, and Other information, including date of preparation or last revision.

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers have until June 2015 to comply with all modified provisions of the GHS Standard, though distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old system until December 1, 2015.

All chemical labeling and employee training must be completed by June 2016.

previous page of this article:
OSHA Compliance Stalled By Chemical Manufacturers
next page of this article:
Distributors Begin The Private Label Redesign Process