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OSHA’s Updated Hazard Communication Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently finalized a Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) update. This update, effective July 19, 2024, aims to improve worker safety by aligning the HCS with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). What does this mean for you as an employer? 

The updated HCS primarily affects how chemical hazard information is conveyed. Here’s a breakdown of potential impacts: 

  • Hazard Classification: Provides specific criteria for the classification of health and physical hazards and the classification of mixtures. 
  • Labels: Employers may see revised pictograms and hazard statements on chemical containers. 
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs): The format and organization of SDSs will change, requiring familiarization for employees. 
  • Training: Existing training programs may need adjustments to reflect the updated hazard classification system and pictograms. 

There are phased compliance dates for chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors evaluating substances (January 19, 2026) and mixtures (July 19, 2027). Employers have six months beyond those dates (July 20, 2026, for substances and January 19, 2028, for mixtures) to update any alternative workplace labeling, update their hazard communication program, and provide any additional employee training for newly identified physical, health, or other hazards. 

Next Steps  

While there is a significant grace period for covered employers as full compliance is not required until July 20, 2026, for substances and January 19, 2028, for mixtures, it is recommended that employers begin taking steps to prepare now by familiarizing themselves with the changes outlined in OSHA’s final rule. 

  1. Check Your Labels and SDSs: Obtain updated versions of labels and SDSs from your chemical suppliers. 
  2. Update Your Hazard Communication Program: Ensure your program reflects the new classification system and pictograms. 
  3. Train Your Workers: Develop or update training programs to familiarize employees with the revised labels, SDS format, and any new hazard information. 

OSHA has provided frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the HCS which employers are strongly encouraged to review. 

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.