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

Nearly three years after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) moved to adopt the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), jan/san distributors say they are moving full force ahead to bring their existing inventories into compliance by year’s end.

It’s a much different story than just one year ago, when admittedly anxious distributors faced a host of barriers trying to connect with their manufacturer partners upstream. At the time, distributors say it wasn’t clear how significant — or costly — the transition would be for their manufacturer suppliers.

But in the past year, manufacturers have been taking action, even if it’s been a rather slow and steady process.

“The frustration is that it all has to get down the line,” says Jim Smith, executive vice president at HP Products in Indianapolis. “We’re pretty used to dealing with regulations and manufacturers, but getting us the product in a timely manner could be a problem.”

Jan/san distributors are right to be concerned. The industry is facing a pair of deadlines, this year. By June 1, 2015, distributors must be able to supply Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to their customers with the first shipment of chemicals after an SDS has been updated; and by Dec. 1, 2015, distributors must ensure that each shipped container of a hazardous chemical is labeled with a new, GHS-compliant label. 

Though manufacturers are required to comply with the labeling requirements nearly six months prior, by June 1, 2015, some distributors remain apprehensive about the “one-for-all” approach to compliance.

“Manufacturers have had great difficulty in obtaining the necessary GHS classification information from their [raw] suppliers, which is critical for compliance along the entire supply chain,” says Bill Balek, director of environmental services for ISSA. “The primary issue has been the timeline OSHA established for compliance — essentially one deadline for all channel members instead of establishing staggered deadlines for raw material suppliers, formulators and distributors.”

In hindsight, Balek says it would have been more efficient for OSHA to allow parties, such as distributors, more time to collect the information needed for individual compliance efforts.

next page of this article:
GHS Pictograms, Signal Words Improve Hazard Communication