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OSHA Issues Proposed Rule to Update Hazard Communication Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced proposed amendments to the Hazard Communication Standard (“HCS”) in 29 CFR 1910.1200. The last time the HCS was amended was in 2012 to align the standard with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (“GHS”) and to create consistency with other countries in chemical hazard classification, labeling, and information on safety data sheets (SDS). The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on February 15, 2021.

One major amendment proposed for the HCS is to revise criteria for the classification of certain health and physical hazards, including unstable gases, non-flammable aerosols, skin corrosion, or irritation, eye irritation, and aerosols generally. Based on these changes, certain non-hazardous products, classed under the 2012 amendments, may now need to be identified as hazardous or managed in a different hazard class. They may also need to have revised labeling and SDS’s. In addition, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of aerosols, desensitized explosives and flammable gases will need to reevaluate their products and ensure proper classification, identification, labeling and communication of product hazards.

The proposed modifications include, among other things, revisions to definitions of terms used in the standard, revised criteria for classification of certain health and physical hazards, revised provisions for updating labels and new labeling provisions for small containers. OSHA has also proposed new warning language and precautionary statements to help clarify chemical hazards to workers.

Next Steps for Employers

The proposed HCS amendments do not change the existing requirements for hazards to be communicated to users and employees through labeling and SDS’s, but they would require SDS and labeling revisions. However, it should be noted that most of the proposed changes appear to affect manufacturers, importers and distributors, but not employers. As such, there appears to be no need for employers to begin making changes to their hazard communication training programs at this time. Further, OSHA proposes to implement the new rule over a two-year period.

Public comments on the proposed rule (including requests for a public hearing) are due by April 19, 2021. Employers may submit comments electronically to Docket No. OSHA-2019-0001.

HR Works will continue to monitor this development and provide updates as additional information becomes available.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.