Globally Harmonized System

According to Hilda Solis, the US Secretary of Labor, “Revising OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive.” He continues by saying “Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most serious threats facing American workers today.”

OSHA has now aligned the current Hazard Communication Standard with what is called the Globally Harmonized System of classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The update was made to provide a common approach to classifying specific chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. The hope is once the new standard is implemented it will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace. Thus making it safer for employees by creating easily understandable information on handling and the safe use of various chemicals.

The 4 major changes made to the hazard communication standard are:

1. Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.

2. Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.

3. Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.

4. Information and training: Employers are required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.

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