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

Now that manufacturers appear to have gotten the ball rolling, distributors say they’re able to do their part in implementing the new GHS rules.

“Manufacturers are taking action,” says Smith. “It’s a monumental task for all those manufacturers to create all those new labels. Now we just have to go out and capture them. We have a special process in place to make sure everything [in inventory] matches.”

Although the new rules initially threw distributors a curveball, distributors say compliance is simply a matter of keeping up with inventory churn and turn.

Mark Bozich, president of the buying group NISSCO, based in Dulles, Virginia, says keeping such a close eye on inventory has given distributors an incentive to double down on their sales efficiencies.

“With GHS, distributors have had a lot of takeaways: They’re dumping dead inventory, freeing up inventory, doing inventory analysis. So that threat of the federal government coming in really made them rethink,” says Bozich. “The byproduct of GHS has been an increase in cash flow. This was a call to action, which is putting them in a better purchasing position. It’s all about the turn.”

Though concerns over the looming deadlines are still present, Bozich says his national distributor members feel confident they are moving in the right direction.

“When GHS was first presented, it did look ominous,” says Bozich. “But when you break it down, it’s a benefit not only to comply, but to embrace it. I haven’t found one person who has said they are worried about [the transition]. Everybody seems to have a plan in place and they seem to be way ahead of the curve.”

NISSCO, like other buying groups, worked to educate its members, holding GHS training seminars. But Bozich also credits manufacturers, ISSA and other third-party programs for easing distributors into compliance.

“Some manufacturers just really stepped up to the plate; we had some manufacturers that made it so ridiculously simple, they just boiled it down to the main points,” says Bozich. “They put the materials into a digestible format. As a distributor it was just easy to comply.”

So far, distributors say implementing GHS hasn’t been too taxing. Some are setting their calendars to start final analyses in November and begin making regular rounds in their warehouse to get a physical product count. If a chemical hasn’t been completely phased out, distributors are on high alert to contact the manufacturers to request the updated labels.

“We went back to our old school routes. Just last month we walked every aisle in our warehouse to know what we have that needs to move, as well as to confirm that we have an updated SDS on every product that we stock,” says one NISSCO distributor. “It was a little bit of a task and it took two days to complete, but we now know exactly what we have left to move, as well as that we will be fully compliant well before the December 2015 requirement.”

NISSCO distributors appear to echo sentiments that the manufacturers, not distributors, have so far shouldered the greatest burden in the transition to GHS. 

“Distributors don’t have to create anything, they just have to rely on their manufacturer partners,” says Bozich. “They are the ones with all the heavy lifting.”

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GHS Pictograms, Signal Words Improve Hazard Communication
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GHS Compliance Often Beyond Distributors' Control