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OSHA SENDS FINAL RULE ON HAZCOM AND GHS TO OMB

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent a final rule that will align its Hazard Communication Standard with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Oct. 25 for final review. By law, OMB is required to perform one last review prior to the rule being formally approved for publication and implementation by the regulated community.

OSHA proposed the revisions to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) rule Sept. 30, 2009 as part of the United States agreement with the United Nations’ that requires all participating countries to implement the GHS.

The final rule sent by OSHA to OMB for review will ultimately revise key provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard to align with parallel provisions of the GHS including the following:

  • Amendments to OSHA’s criteria for classifying the physical and health hazards of chemical products
  • Revised labeling requirements based on standardized elements of the GHS
  • A new and standardized order of information on safety data sheets

In addition, the aforementioned changes will require considerable employee education and training along all segments of the supply chain: manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and facility service providers. As proposed, employers would be required to train their workers within two years of the rule being finalized. Manufacturers, importers, and distributors would have to comply with all of the other aspects of the rule’s provisions (i.e., labels, SDSs) within three years.

According to OSHA officials, the proposed changes will improve the consistency and effectiveness of hazard communications globally, as well as domestically, and ultimately reduce chemical-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the workplace.

Length of Review. Insiders at OSHA have expressed confidence that OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) would conduct a relatively speedy review of the final rule. According to Executive Order 12,866, OIRA has 90 days to review a regulation before making a determination, although it may extend that review by up to 30 days.

On the other hand, detractors have pointed out that OSHA has had difficulties in completing recent reviews by OMB. For example, concerns have arisen over the length of time OIRA has held OSHA’s proposal to regulate silica dust, among others, which was received last February but has not advanced.

ChemTel will continue to monitor and update the status of GHS on our website.

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